Almost everyone has heard the famous Schoolhouse Rock song “I’m Just a Bill” that puts a musical tune to how a bill becomes a law. While this is a great overview of how a bill becomes a law, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes factors that affect a bill’s journey through the legislative process.
A bill idea is brought forth by a legislator’s constituent or may even be an idea of his or her own, then the idea is researched by policy advisors, the representative or senator’s staff, and other House and Senate departments. Once it’s been heavily researched and the legislator is satisfied with the content of the bill language, the bill is submitted to the office of the clerk. The bill is then read-in on the House or Senate floor at which point it is officially considered “introduced.”
After the introduction, the next step is the committee process. The bill is referred to a standing committee that is relevant to the topic it covers, such as the Agriculture Committee or the Insurance Committee. Then it must wait until that committee’s chair agrees to bring it up for discussion.
Committee chairs in the House are appointed by the House Speaker who makes his or her decision based on the knowledge an individual has for the subject matter of a particular committee. For example, prior to my career in public service, I was a veterinarian, so I was appointed to serve as the chairman of the Health Policy Committee. Members of the committee are selected based on their interest in the subject matter as well.
When the committee chair decides to take up the legislation for the committee’s consideration, the members of the committee vote on whether or not to pass the legislation to the House floor for consideration by the full House of Representatives.
The bill may never make it past this point, unless the Speaker of the House decides to bring it up for a vote. If that happens, and the full House approves the bill, it is sent to the other chamber, in this case the Senate, where the entire process starts over again. The Senate refers it to a committee, the committee chair decides whether or not to vote on it, and if the committee votes to pass to the Senate floor it is considered by the full Senate. If the Senate approves the legislation, it heads to the governor’s desk for approval. The governor has veto power, so if he or she does not support the legislation, the measure is not adopted into state law.
So there you have it. The process of how a bill becomes a law depends upon the House chamber, the Senate chamber and the governor. Our system of checks and balances is in place to ensure only the best legislation that’s been thoroughly researched and vetted becomes law.
If you have any questions about this process, or if you have any ideas or suggestions for future legislation, please contact my office at 517-373-8835 or HankVaupel@house.mi.gov.
Rep. Vaupel is serving his second term as state representative of Livingston County. He serves as chairman of the Health Policy Committee and as a member of the Tax Policy, Insurance and Michigan Competitiveness Committee. Prior to his career in public service, including his service as Handy Township Supervisor, he had over 40 years of experience running a veterinary business in Livingston County. He has been married to his wife, Cathy, for 47 years.