Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, April, 2013
The length of time it takes for a bill to be proposed and passed into law can vary tremendously, but here’s some information about the basic framework:
- New bills must be proposed on or before the 3rd Friday of January in odd numbered years
- The House and Senate will then generally review bills that have been proposed by the deadline, form committees and assign bill numbers during the school vacation week in February.
- For each bill, a public hearing must be held by the 3rd Wednesday in March of even numbered years, but they CAN be held any time after bill number assignment. (Most work typically happens after the year’s budget process has concluded in June.)
- After the hearing, the relevant committee will report back and if their report supports that the bill moves forward, it will go to the House Ways and Means or Healthcare Financing Committees to evaluate budgetary impact.
- If the bill continues to be supported, it will go to the floor of the House or Senate (whichever generated the bill) and if approved there, it will go to the other for approval.
- If a bill makes it through every step and has been voted upon favorably by both the House and the Senate, it will go to the Governor to be passed into law or vetoed.
- If passed by the Governor, the law will become effective 90 days after signed unless otherwise noted in the text of the ill or in an attached preamble from the House or Senate.
- If the bill fails to go to vote or be passed for any reason, it may be refilled for consideration by the next 3rd Friday of January in the next odd numbered year.
What Can YOU Do?
- Stay current on bills that are being proposed by keeping an eye out for announcements and posted proposals and/or connecting with your local advocacy organizations so they can help by sending you notices when something important happens!
- Call, write or VISIT your legislator! Whether you agree or disagree with a bill, let your voice be heard.
- Attend the public hearing for a given bill and speak out. Legislators are only required to give 48 hours notice of a public hearing (though many give a week or more), so keep your eyes open!
- Get familiar with the text of a bill and share information with others! Many of your friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances won’t know about a particular legislative bill unless YOU share the information with them.
If you live in Massachusetts, you can find out the name and contact information for your legislator by going to www.malegislature.gov/People/Search, www.wheredoivotema.com/ or calling the Clerk’s Office of the House (617-722-2356) or the Senate (617-722-1276)
To read the text of any current or proposed bill OR to keep track of public hearing notices, go to www.malegislature.gov or call the office of the sponsoring legislator.