The Life of a Law: First and Second Readings

This is the second installment in a series aimed at explaining the process of how a bill becomes a law. For quick reference, see our infographic of the law-making process.

Last time, we looked at how an idea makes its way to the Georgia General Assembly. We walked through how a bill goes from your state legislator to being filed with the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House. Now our journey continues!

First Reading

On the first legislative day after the bill is filed, the bill is formally introduced. The title of the bill is read in the chamber of whatever legislator authored the bill.

So, for example, if Senator Renee Unterman files a bill with the Secretary of the Senate on Day 3 of the legislative session, the title of the bill will be read to the Georgia State Senate on Day 4. This is known as its First Reading.

After the bill is read, the presiding officer assigns the bill to a standing committee. Most of the magic happens in our committees, but we’ll get into that later.

Second Reading, House ONLY

On the next legislative day and ONLY in the Georgia House of Representatives, the bill will have its Second Reading. The Clerk of the House will read the bill’s title again, but the bill will still be in committee.

So, for example, Representative Katie Dempsey files a bill with the Clerk of the House on Day 10. The title of the bill will be read to the House on Day 11 for its First Reading. The bill is assigned to a committee. On Day 12, the Clerk will read the bill’s title to the House again for its Second Reading while the bill is still being considered by the committee.

The Senate doesn’t have its Second Reading until after the bill passes through the committee. That means in the Senate, bills that don’t pass the committee don’t get a Second Reading.

In our next Life of a Law post, we’ll look into what actually happens to a bill in these mysterious committees.

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Last updated April 27, 2017.


About the Author

Bethany McDaniel is the Interactive Web Content Manager for GeorgiaGov. She graduated from Berry College in Rome, Ga., with degrees in Visual Communication and History.