How a Bill Becomes a Law

Comprised of 59 Legislative Districts
59 Senators (31 Republicans, 28 Democrats)
118 Representatives (58 Republicans, 60 Democrats)

The Legislative Process: Bill Drafting
Only legislators may introduce bills and amendments to bills. Bills often result from the
concerns of constituents (Illinois citizens).

There are three types of bills:

1. Revisory Bills – Makes technical changes in the form or in the wording.

2. Appropriation Bills – A bill which provides money for the operating expenses of a state agency including their staff and programs, or start a law that provides money for new programs such as Family Support.

3. Substantive Bills – Makes major changes in existing laws or creates new laws.

1st READING — Every bill that is introduced by a legislator must first be read by its title in the house it began in. A bill is then given a number and is then assigned to a standing Committee. Generally, Committees are specialized by subject or topic area. For example, elementary and secondary education, insurance, human services, and mental health.

Once a bill is assigned to a committee, it is on the committee’s calendar. The committee sets deadlines which they must follow. If a legislator wants to help a bill it is up to them when the bill will be read. The committee’s have certain times which they meet each day.

If a legislator wants a bill read at a specific meeting, he/she needs to tell the chairman, so that the bill can be put on the schedule.

The chairman will call the bill and the legislator can bring in information and witnesses to help get the bill passed. People who oppose the bill also have a chance to speak now. If you wish to speak you must fill out a "witness slip" indicating if you are for or against the bill. During the reading of a bill is when each of you as a constituent has a chance to affect legislation. This is also the first time that a bill can be amended.

Amendments are ways in which to change a bill. Often the sponsor of the bill will suggest an amendment. Working on bills and amendments is a major part of the legislative process.

After everyone has had a change to speak for or against the bill, and any amendments are accepted into the bill, then the Committee has to take action on the bill.

They have three choices: Do Pass, Do Pass as Amended, or Do Not Pass

A bill may be killed in a couple of ways: one is if the sponsor doesn’t ask for the bill to be read, then it dies at the deadline for reporting of bills from committee. If the bill is just "held" it never goes anywhere, or it may be put aside to be studied later. The bill has now gone through committee and passed on a "Do Pass" or "Do Pass as Amended" motion. Now it goes on….

Second Reading which is considered on both the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each chamber or house gives a bill three readings. The first comes right after the introduction. The second comes after a "do-pass" recommendation from a committee. The bill is then put on a second-reading calendar of the House or Senate.
Second reading is the amendment stage, where changes can be made, and this is the only time when changes can occur. On a typical day, the legislators have many bills on their second reading calendar.

The presiding officer reads through the bills and if the legislator who sponsored the bill is there, then the other legislators discuss sit and may make changes to it. However, if the sponsor is not there, the bill is not discussed but still stays on the calendar for second reading.

In the House the clerk has to record the amendments, get them printed and each member must have a copy of the bill before they can discuss the amendments.

In the Senate, the amendments don’t have to be printed unless five or more Senators ask for them to be printed. Committee amendments added in the Senate must be adopted on the floor.

In the House, an amendment adopted in Committee, can be changed or taken off the bill during second reading.

Often the original sponsor of the bill will want to make small changes in it, and in this case the other legislators agree to do so by voicing their opinions. If the sponsor wants to make a big change in the bill, then he explains it to the others, and asks for their support. Often the others won’t be in favor of the change and will ask questions about it.

In order to adopt an amendment, a majority of the legislators must be present and votes "yes". If they aren’t sure if the amendment passed or not, then they will take a vote on an electronic voting machine. Each time they do this it is recorded in the journals of each house.

After they have gone through all of the amendments, the bill is considered to have been read for the second time. Now the bill goes on to what is called the "Third Reading".
Third Reading is only for voting on whether or not to pass a bill; amendments cannot be added at this time. The third reading must take place at least one legislative day after the second reading.

The sponsor of the bill explains why the bill should be passed and then the other legislators discuss it. Sometimes they debate over it for a very long time, and other times they discuss it very quickly or not at all. It takes 60 yes votes in the House and 30 yes votes in the Senate to pass a bill.

If a bill passes, then it must go through the entire process again in the Second House. If no changes or amendments are made in the Second House, then it goes to the Governor for approval. If he has no problems with it, then he signs it and it becomes a law.

The Governor
The Governor has 60 days to consider every bill passed. If he wants the bill to become a law he then signs it or he vetoes it. If he does nothing with the bill, it automatically becomes law after 60 days. A vetoed bill is returned to the house where it was originally started — it has 15 days to be passed and it must do so by 3/5ths margin (71 House; 36 Senate).

There are four kinds of vetoes:
1. Item Veto — When the Governor wants to eliminate part of a bill, but might not want to eliminate all of it, he/she will only veto the parts which they do not want it a particular bill.

2. Reduction Veto – This is an section which the Governor may take to reduce a specific budget item.

3. Amendatory Veto — If the Governor wishes, he/she can change a part of a bill, and still pass the rest of it.

4. Total Veto – If the Governor wishes, she/he can reject a bill completely, and by doing this no part of the bill is passed.

More Legislative Activity