The Life of a Law: The End
This is the fifth and final installment in a series explaining the process of how a bill becomes a law. For quick reference, see our infographic of the law-making process.
We’re almost there! We’ve followed the life of a bill from its conception as just an idea to learning how it reaches its First and Second Readings. We then watched it be debated in committees to where we last left off at being read for the third time. Now we’re ready to vote.
After a bill experiences its Third Reading, it is presented to the floor of the house where it originated. Debate ensues and amendments are discussed. Finally, before moving on to the next bill in queue, the chamber takes a vote.
All our state senators and representatives push a little button at their wooden desks to vote nay or yea for a bill. You can see in real time the votes popping up on electronic screens at the front of the House and Senate.
If a bill does not pass, good luck next year! Our General Assembly runs in 2 year cycles. This means bills that don’t pass or aren’t voted on during the first year, could have a second chance. However, if they don’t pass the second year … we’ve got to start from square one.
If a bill does pass, it moves forward and is sent to the other chamber. That leads us to our second vote.
After a bill passes the house where it originates, it then has to pass the other chamber for another vote. The majority of bills switch houses on Crossover Day (Day 30 of the legislative session). The other house typically makes changes to the bill and adds their own amendments. If a bill is approved by the second house and does change, then the original house has to accept those changes. Once both houses agree on the same version of a bill, it’s sent to the Governor.
Let’s See How This Works
So, for example, say a bill originates in the Georgia House of Representatives. After it passes committee, is presented to the House, and passes the House, then it is sent to the Georgia State Senate on Crossover Day. There the senators discuss the bill and add their own amendments. Then the Senate takes a vote. If it passes the Senate, the bill goes back to the House. If the House likes and accepts the Senate’s changes, the bill will head to the Governor.
However, if the House does not like the Senate’s changes, yet the Senate insists that the House accepted their changes, a conference committee is formed. The conference committee then tries to work things out and find a compromise before reporting back to their respective houses. If each chamber accepts the committee’s report, the bill is sent to the Governor.
In order for a bill to become a law, the Governor can either sign it or do nothing. He can also veto bills to prohibit them from becoming laws. If the Governor vetoes a bill, a two-thirds majority of each chamber must vote favorably to override the Governor’s veto.
Feel free to learn more about the Governor's role in forming Georgia laws from our blog archives.
Once a bill is signed (or not signed) by the Governor, all the new acts and laws are printed in the Georgia Law series and the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.). Unless otherwise stated in the bill, all acts/laws passed become effective every July 1. So even if a bill passes and is signed by April 1, it won’t take into effect until another 3 months.
And voila! It's been a long journey, but we now know the life of a Georgia law!
- Part 1: Drafting the Idea
- Part 2: First and Second Readings
- Part 3: Committees
- Part 4: Third Reading
Last updated April 27, 2017.
About the Author
Bethany McDaniel is the Editorial Director for GeorgiaGov. She graduated from Berry College in Rome, Ga., with degrees in Visual Communication and History.