For the Children:
Understanding the Legislative Process is Key to Advocacy Efforts
I served as a staff member, then as a legislator for a total of nearly twenty years. One of the things I learned during that time was that understanding how the legislative process works is a key part of successfully bringing about change.
The School House Rock music video, “I’m Just a Bill” has the basics right, at least when it comes to federal legislation. If, however, you are an activist at the Oklahoma State Capitol, you’ll need to know a few more tunes (including, “I’m Just a Conference Committee Substitute,” and “I’m Just a Joint Resolution”).
For those interested in expanding their knowledge of the process, here are some of the various kinds of legislation that we see each year at the Capitol
The bill or resolution, as filed, is has the heading, “AS INTRODUCED”. The measure is introduced in this form and remains this way until it is reported out of committee in the first chamber.
After a measure has been heard by a committee and reported to the floor for further consideration, it is printed with changes made in committee highlighted in bold.
A verified copy of the bill or resolution, complete with any committee or floor amendments, is executed after Third Reading. An Engrossed Version passed by one chamber is filed for committee work in the second chamber, then in the same form as above for floor action.
Conference Committee Substitute:
Frequently, bills pass the two houses in different forms and go to conference committees to have the differences resolved. A report signed by conferees and a conference committee substitute that resembles the committee version will be considered by both chambers.
A verified, final copy of the identical bill or resolution passed by both chambers and ready for the Governor’s signature or veto is filed.
Bills being considered by the Legislature can do any one or any combination of the following: create new law; amend existing law; repeal existing law; or appropriate money / set budget limits
Most often, bills amend existing law. The changes are easy to determine since what is being changed is denoted by strikeouts in the case of language being removed or underlines for new language. The most notable exception is for new law or non-codified sections which have no strikeouts or deletions.
Bills have the force and effect of law; must be passed by both chambers; must be signed by the Governor (except when the measure submits a question to a vote of the people); and generally, propose changes to the Oklahoma Statutes.
Joint Resolutions have the force and effect of law; must be passed by both chambers; must be signed by the Governor (except when the measure submits a question to a vote of the people); and often will not become part of the Oklahoma Statutes.
Concurrent Resolutions do not have the force and effect of law; must be passed by both chambers; are not signed by the Governor; will not become part of the Oklahoma Statutes; are used to express the will or opinion of both chambers.
Simple Resolutions do not have the force and effect of law; must pass only the chamber which introduced the measure; are not signed by the Governor; will not become part of the Oklahoma Statutes; and are used to express the will or opinion of one chamber.
I hope this will help you better understand the process as we proceed through the rest of the session, or if you decide to visit with a legislator about what is currently happening at your State Capitol!