Legislative Process 101

We get a number of requests regarding the status or meaning of action steps and the legislative process. We know all too well that it can be a twisted and confusing enough to bring down a herd of elephants (or donkeys). There are a myriad of differences large and small from state to state. However in a very general sense, with a few exceptions, it goes a little something like the outline below.

Further reading:

Bill Drafting

The process starts when someone decides current law needs revision. A bill is drafted, which is essentially a list of changes to the existing compiled state statutes and code that may add, strike, or amend the text to confer new purpose, restrictions, etc.


The bill is introduced into the first chamber. This often entails the chamber Clerk and registering the official introductory draft of the legislation.

Read First / Read Second

The definition of "read" varies however rare is the instance that the bill is read verbatim on the chamber floor. At this stage a synopsis of the legislation is presented and any initial discussion or decisions on the merit of the bill may be decided and then the bill typically referred to one or more committees will continue the life process of the bill.


In most states committees do the bulk of the legislative debate, modification. They are specialized by area of oversight or expertise and will discuss and research the bill, potentially amending or substituting a new draft. The committee typically recommends to the Committee of the Whole, another way of saying the entire chamber, that the bill either Pass or Do Not Pass.

Passage Vote for Engrossment

After a bill has been 'read' a third time it is put to a vote for passage out of the originating house. If the vote passes the bill is then considered to be Engrossed and it sent to the other chamber of the legislative body.

Rinse and Repeat

The process then repeats itself from Introduction to Third reading in the second legislative chamber.

Passage Vote for Enrollment

Once the bill gets to third reading there is another vote for passage. Should it pass then the bill normally will be considered to be Enrolled. This version of the bill text is what will be sent to the Governor and will be codified by the Secretary of State as part of the official Chapter and Acts.

Sent to Governor

In states where Governor approval is required, the Enrolled bill is sent to the Governor. This may be ceremonial, or the Governor may have the power to veto the bill, or if left unsigned for a fixed period of time is de facto approved.

See, its really quite simple... Of course there's still matters such as conference committees, same as/similar to bills, enforced debate, suspension of rules, Secretary of State, Chapters and Acts. Not to mention all of Nebraska and Tennessee. However, that is the upper level class.