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How a Bill Becomes a Law

A bill is a proposal for the enactment, amendment or repeal of an existing law, or for the appropriation of public money. A bill may originate in either the House or Senate, with the exception of revenue measures, which originate in the House of Representatives. It must be passed by a majority vote of each house of the Legislature and be signed into law by the Governor. If the Governor vetoes a bill, it can become law if the veto is overridden by a two-thirds majority of those present in each house. A bill can also become law without the Governor’s signature if it is not vetoed within five days (Sundays excepted) after presentation to the Governor. After the Legislature adjourns “sine die,” the Governor has ten days to veto or sign a bill.

Before the final vote on a bill, it must be read on three separate days in each house. Two-thirds of the members of the house where the bill is pending may vote to dispense with this provision.


A bill may be introduced by a member, a group of members or a standing committee. After the 20th day of the session in the House and the 12th day in the Senate, bills may be introduced only by committee. After the 36th day bills may be introduced only by certain committees. In the House: State Affairs, Appropriations, Education, Revenue and Taxation, Health and Welfare and Ways and Means Committee. In the Senate: State Affairs, Finance, and Judiciary and Rules.

When the RS (proposed legislation) is approved after a short committee hearing, it is presented to the Chief Clerk or Secretary of the Senate and assigned a bill number. The bill is then introduced by being read on the floor in the 8th Order of Business in the House and the 11th Order of Business in the Senate. When a bill has been passed by one house it is transmitted to the other and follows the same process as any new bill. It will be introduced, referred to a committee for review and recommendation and then if sent to the floor will flow through the calendars (First Reading, Second Reading, and Third Reading) until reaching a final vote at the Third Reading Calendar.

First Reading

The bill is read the first time and is then referred by the Speaker of the House to the Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee for printing. In the Senate the bill is referred by the presiding officer in the Senate to the Judiciary and Rules Committee for printing. After the bill is printed, it is reported back and referred to a standing committee by the Speaker in the House and the presiding officer in the Senate.

Reports of Standing Committees

Each committee to which a bill is referred conducts a study of all information that may help the committee determine the scope and effect of the proposed law. Studies may include research, hearings, expert testimony, and statements of interested parties. A bill may be reported out of committee with one of the following recommendations:

  1.   Do Pass.
  2.   Without recommendation.
  3.   To be placed on General Orders for Amendment.
  4.   Do not pass. (Bills are seldom released from committee with this recommendation.)
  5.   Withdrawn with the privilege of introducing another bill (Senate only).
  6.   Referred to the Clerk’s office for referral by the Speaker to another standing committee..

If a committee reports a bill out and does not recommend that the bill be amended or other action to keep it from going to the floor, the bill is then placed on the Second Reading Calendar.

Many bills are not reported out by committees and “die in committee.”

Second Reading

When a bill is reported out of committee, it is placed on the Second Reading Calendar and is read again. The following legislative day, the bill is automatically on the Third Reading Calendar unless other action has been taken.

Third Reading

The Clerk/Secretary of the Senate is required to read the entire bill, section by section, when it reaches “Third Reading of Bills” 11th Order of Business in the House and the 13th Order in the Senate. It is normal procedure, however, for the members to move to dispense with this reading at length.

It is at third reading that the bill is ready for debate and the final vote on passage of the bill is taken. Each bill is sponsored by a member who is known as the “floor sponsor.” This member opens and closes debate in favor of passage of the bill. After debate has closed, House members use an electronic voting system that tallies their votes; the Senate has a voice roll call vote tallied by the Secretary of the Senate. Each member present shall cast either an “aye” or “nay” vote. A bill is passed by a majority of those present. When a bill passes in one house it is then transmitted to the other house where it will follow a similar path. If a bill fails to pass, it is filed in the office of the Chief Clerk or Secretary of the Senate depending on the house of origin.

Once a bill has passed both houses it goes through the process of enrolling – during this process the Chief Clerk or Secretary of the Senate review each bill for accuracy. After the bill has been reviewed it is then submitted to both the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore/President of the Senate for signatures. The Chief Clerk (House bill) or Secretary of the Senate (Senate bill) also sign their bills. At each step of the process bills being sent between the two houses are accompanied by messages that are read across the desk so members, follow the progress of their bills. After all required signatures are obtained bills are transmitted to the Governor for final action (Governor signature, veto, law without signature).

Committee of the Whole

When a printed bill is to be amended, it is referred to the Committee of the Whole for amendment. At the proper Order of Business, the House or Senate resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole and the entire membership sits as one committee to consider changes to House and/or Senate bills that have been placed on a General Orders Calendar.

When a House/and or Senate bill has been amended by Committee of the Whole, it is engrossed by the body of origin. If a House bill is amended in the Senate the House must concur with the amendment before it can be engrossed. The same is true for a Senate bill amended in the House. Amendments are inserted into the bill (engrossed) and the engrossed bill is then placed on the calendar (First Reading of Engrossed Bills in the House and First Reading Calendar in the Senate) to be considered as a new bill. (see Joint Rule 2, House Rule 44 and Senate Rule 14).

Governor’s Action

After receiving a bill passed by both the House and Senate, the Governor may:

  1.   Approve the bill by signing it within five days after its receipt (except Sundays), or within ten days after the Legislature adjourns at the end of the session
      (“sine die”).
  2.   Allow the bill to become law without his approval by not signing it within the five days allowed.
  3.   Disapprove (veto) the bill within five days and return it to the house of origin giving his reason for disapproval, or within ten days after the Legislature
      adjourns “sine die.”

When a bill is approved by the Governor, becomes law without his approval, or through a veto override, it is transmitted to the Secretary of State for assignment of a chapter number in the Idaho Session Laws. Most bills become law on July 1, except in the case of a bill containing an emergency clause or other specific date of enactment. The final step is the addition of new laws to the Idaho Code, which contains all Idaho laws.