Everyone needs to know . . .

How A Bill Becomes Law

Click here to see a diagram of Kentucky's legislative process

A law begins its journey toward enactment when it is introduced as a bill. It can be introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, but it must be approved by both in order to be sent to the Governor for his signature, at which point it becomes law.

Once a bill is introduced in one of the chambers (either the House or the Senate), the Committee on Committees (both the House and the Senate have one) decide to which committee the bill will be sent. This is an important decision because it is harder to get a bill through some committees than others.

The Speaker of the House is the chairman of the House Committee on Committees, and the Senate President is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Committees.

When the bill has been received by a committee, the chairman of the committee decides whether the bill should be heard by the committee. If the chairman decides that the bill should not be heard, it simply dies. If it is heard, it is either approved or defeated. If it is approved, it goes to the Rules Committee.

The Rules Committee of each chamber is also a powerful committee. There a bill gets its second reading. The Rules Committee decides when and whether a bill gets to the chamber floor for a vote. It can either send the bill directly to the floor or back to another committee for further review.

When a bill finally reaches the floor, before it can be voted on, it must be announced three times. The Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate can refuse to call the bill for a vote, in which case it will eventually die. If the bill is voted on and passed, it goes on to the other chamber and starts on the same entire process for approval there.

If one chamber passes a bill and the other chamber changes it in any way, the bill must go back to the chamber in which it originated to approve the change. This is called “concurrence.”

Once it passes in both chambers, it goes to the Governor for his signature. When the Governor receives the bill on his desk, he can do one of three things: he can sign it, veto it, or simply not act upon it. If he signs it, it becomes law. If he does not sign it, it still becomes law. Not signing a bill but letting it go into effect is a way for the Governor to express disapproval without actually stopping the bill.

If the Governor vetoes the bill, the bill can only become law if the General Assembly overrides the veto. A veto can be overridden only by a constitutional majority of both chambers. In the House, a constitutional majority is 51 votes (one more than half of 100). In the Senate, it is 20 votes (one more than half of 38).  If the veto is overridden in this way, the bill becomes law. If it is not overridden, it does not become law.

Click here to see a diagram of Kentucky's legislative process

Back to the legislative updates page

- Article and graphic courtesy of The Family Foundation of Kentucky, 2011