Steps of the Missouri Legislative Process
Legislative Session: January-May of each year
Each bill that becomes law will go through the process outlined below, in both chambers of the Missouri State Legislature, the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate. A bill can start in either chamber. If the proposed bill passes the first chamber, it will then go on to the second chamber. If it passes both chambers, it will then go to the Governor. Identical bills may also be passed in both chambers and then merged into one bill before going to the Governor.
Introduction of a Bill:
A bill must first be filed before it can be debated in the legislature. Filing a bill means that the bill is formally submitted. House and Senate members can file a bill from December 1st, before the legislative session officially starts, until the 60th day of the legislative session, which is approximately March 1.
First and Second Readings:
For the first reading, House/Senate clerks read the number and title of the bill on the floor. After this, the bill is scheduled for a second reading and the entire bill is read. After the second reading, the bill is assigned to a committee that covers its subject matter.
The committee then holds a public hearing for the bill. This is when the public can voice their opinion in support of or in opposition to a bill, or simply for informational purposes, which is when someone shares information relevant to an informed decision on the bill. Voicing your opinion can occur in two ways, either through testifying in person at the hearing or by submitting written testimony.
Committee Executive Session:
After the public hearing is held, the committee will meet to discuss the bill. The public can observe these sessions, but not comment, as they can during the public hearing. The committee can vote to recommend that the bill pass or not (a majority vote of the committee is needed) and, if it passes, the bill is then sent to the floor of the chamber for debate.
Sometimes a bill will be reviewed by additional committees before it moves on to being finalized, such as a committee that oversees the rules and laws that govern the Missouri Legislature and State of Missouri. This allows the additional committee(s) to assess if and how the proposed bill may affect other rules or budgetary items that fall under the Missouri Legislature’s purview. Often these secondary committees do not allow for public comment.
Perfection of a Bill:
The bill is then debated on the floor of the chamber. The committee may make a recommendation regarding the bill if they wish. Other members may make additional comments. After debate is done, the members take a vote on the bill, either approving or dismissing it. If approved, the bill has been finalized and is deemed “perfected”. When a bill is awaiting debate on the floor it is placed on the perfection calendar, either the formal or informal perfection calendar. Bills scheduled on the formal perfection calendar will be debated in the order that they are listed, and are guaranteed to be debated, as long as the chamber makes it to that point on the list. Bills scheduled on the informal perfection calendar can be called for debate at any time, or not at all. Bills that are higher priority will usually be scheduled on the formal calendar, as it is more of a guarantee that it will reach the floor of the chamber for debate.
Returning to the First Chamber:
If any major changes are made to the bill in the second chamber, it must go back to the floor of the first chamber and be approved again.
If differences in the House and Senate bills cannot be resolved, a conference committee that includes members of both chambers will be convened to determine what will go in the final version of the bill. There may not be an official public comment period but you can reach out to the members of the conference committee and voice your opinion.
Changes that may occur as a bill moves through the Legislature and that a conference committee may address are amendments to the bill. An amendment is any change to the original bill language, big or small. It may be a small change that clarifies what a proposed bill will do or it may be an additional proposed bill being amended onto the original proposed bill. This often occurs later in session when there may not be time to pass all the bills the legislators want, so they add bills less likely to pass onto bills more likely to pass.
Third Reading and Final Passage:
The perfected bill is then read for a third time. Approval by a majority of the members is required for final passage. If final passage is achieved, the bill then goes to the other chamber and repeats the same process. If it receives final passage in both chambers it is labeled ‘truly agreed to and finally passed’ and the bill is then sent to the governor.
Sent to the Governor:
Once the governor receives the bill they have four options:
- Sign the bill and pass it into Missouri law
- Veto the bill
- The bill is then sent back to the legislature, where the members could vote on the bill in an effort to achieve a supermajority (⅔) and override the veto in order to still pass the bill into law
- Leave the bill unsigned
- The bill will become law in a set amount of time, but the governor has not formally supported or opposed the bill and ensuing law
- Veto line items (appropriation bills only)
Effective Date of Laws:
Bills typically take effect at least 90 days after the session, which is August 28 for regular sessions. If a bill contains an emergency clause, the bill will usually take effect as soon as it is signed into law.
Publication of Laws:
The Joint Committee on Legislative Research publishes each year’s bills in a book entitled Laws of Missouri.