When a legislator gets an idea or is prompted by their constituency to make a change, they have a drafting lawyer prepare a draft of a bill to see what laws will need to change.
Once it's ready, a new bill is read before the Assembly or Senate; this is called an ‘introduction’, or its ‘first reading’. Often, bills are referred to by number at this point: for instance, 2013 Assembly Bill 20, or ‘AB20’. If they support a bill, legislators from the same house can sign on as co-authors, while members of the opposite house sign on as co-sponsors.
The legislature usually sends a bill to a relevant committee. For instance, a bill about schools would probably be referred to the Assembly or Senate Committee on Education. Committees are groups of legislators who focus on a particular topic, like education or housing. This specialization helps the legislature to give each bill the attention it needs.
While a bill is ‘in committee’, legislative service agencies research the bill to determine its impact: for instance, the Legislative Council might find that a bill contradicts federal law, or that scientific studies have found similar measures to be ineffective.
Committees also generally hold public hearings, where they hear from experts and from the general public. If you’re interested in attending or participating in a public hearing for a bill, see hearings.
All bills which involve spending state money or raising taxes are also sent to the Joint Committee on Finance, which is attended both by representatives and senators. They specifically discuss the cost and financial impact of the bill.
In response to research and hearings, a committee may offer amendments to a bill. Then, it sends its analysis back to the legislature, usually with a recommendation: Should the legislature pass this bill?
When a bill is read again before the legislature, this is called the ‘second reading’. Legislators vote on individual amendments, and may offer more amendments.
Then, the bill is read a third time, and legislators vote on the completed bill with any amended changes. If it passes, it’s sent to the other house: for instance, 2013 Assembly Bill 20 became 2013 Senate Bill 39 in the Senate. Then, it undergoes the same process. If amendments are made in the second house, the bill is sent back to the first house, to make sure that they agree.
When a bill has passed both houses, it’s sent to the governor, who may sign it or veto it. If it’s an ‘appropriations bill’, a bill for which state money is set aside, like the state budget, the governor may veto parts of the bill, and pass the rest. The legislature may override a veto, if two-thirds of both houses vote in favor of the bill. When the bill is passed, it becomes an act, and its changes are added into the statutes as law.
Once a bill has been signed into law, it usually takes effect a few days later. Sometimes, the ‘effective date’ will be delayed, for instance, to give those effected time to prepare. Now that the act is in the statutes, it can be amended further, and the process starts again.
You can follow a particular bill’s progress through the legislature by finding its ‘bill history’ page. Search either on our front page, or in the search bar at the top of your screen: You can search either by subject (‘mining’), or by the bill’s number if you know it (‘AB20’).
Near the top of the page is the bill’s subject and current status. Next are documents related to that bill. You can see more specifics on a bill’s history at the bottom of this page.
If you’d like to suggest a bill to the legislature, find your legislators here.
Members of the general public are welcome to attend Assembly and Senate sessions and committee hearings. In public committee hearings, they can speak before the committee on a particular bill: see this page on how to testify for more details.
If you have more questions about the legislative process, please contact the Legislative Reference Bureau.