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How a bill becomes a law in the Kentucky General Assembly

  1. A BILL STARTS AS AN IDEA It can be an idea from an individual, a group or a lawmaker. Contrary to popular belief, most bills propose small changes to existing law to correct, update or improve.
  2. A BILL IS INTRODUCED Only a member of the General Assembly can introduce a bill, but anyone can submit an idea to a legislator to get the ball rolling.
  3. FIRST STEPS After a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a standing committee for review. Many bills are routed to the most logical committee -- for example, a bill on sprinkler systems in residence halls would go to the Education Committee. But lawmakers also can bury a bill by sending it to a committee whose chairs may refuse to call it up for consideration.
  4. COMMITTEE ACTION Committee chairs have great power over the fate of a bill. A chair can quietly kill a bill in two ways -- by not calling it up or delaying its reading till it is too late in the session to progress to completion. Once a bill is called up, the committee may hold a public hearing where supporters or opponents are invited to testify. If the committee reports the bill favorably, it continues on to either the House or the Senate.
  5. TO THE FLOOR A bill gets its first and second reading on the floor from which it originated. The multiple readings essentially serve as notice the bill is coming up for a vote by the full chamber. After the second reading, the Rules Committee can recommit the bill or schedule it for a final vote.
  6. VOTING A vote to pass a bill is always by roll call. Floor debate beforehand seldom sway the final vote. For a bill to proceed, it must have at least two-fifths of all members -- 40 votes in the House and 16 votes Senate. For appropriations and revenue-raising bills, a higher standard of three-fifths support is required – equating to 51 House votes or 20 Senate votes.
  7. AFTER IT'S PASSED If a bill passes, it's sent to the other chamber where it will be assigned to a committee and the process begins again. On a complex or important piece of legislation, new amendments may be attached. It is important to note that both the House and Senate must agree on the same version of a bill before it becomes law. If they can't agree, the bill goes to a conference committee comprised of members of the House and Senate. It is the job of the conference committee to draft a compromise version of the bill. The compromise is presented to both bodies, and must be approved by both before it goes to the governor.
  8. ACTION BY THE GOVERNOR The governor has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to act. He can sign a bill into law, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it. If vetoed, the bill returns to the General Assembly, which can enact it into law through a three-fifths majority vote of each chamber.

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