Lawyer Library: How Laws Are Made
Laws play an essential role in the governing of a country. The main function of laws is to maintain order in the country, so that citizens will not indulge in unfair practices and commit criminal deeds. They regulate social behavior, and they ensure that citizens will be safe. Without laws, a country will be in chaos, and it is impossible for people to live peacefully.
In the United States, laws are made by the federal government. The process of lawmaking involves a number of steps, and it requires approval from a few different governmental bodies. Careful consideration is given before a law is passed.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
The US House of Representatives' most important responsibility is to create laws. It is the governmental body that receives proposals for laws, and it grants the initial approval for the passing of laws. Laws in the US originate as bills, which have to be approved by the House of Representatives, Senate, and the President. Here is an account of how a bill becomes a law.
A bill comes from an idea. This idea may be proposed by a Representative or an ordinary US citizen. When a citizen has an idea for a law, he or she can approach a Representative to discuss the idea. The Representative will evaluate the proposal, and he or she will turn it into a bill if it is agreeable.
Proposal of a Bill
After the bill is written, a sponsor is needed, and the Representative will try to get other Representatives to support the bill. After a sponsor is found and enough support is gathered, it is time to introduce the bill.
Introduction of a Bill
Representatives introduce a bill by placing it in the hopper, which is a special box that is located beside the clerk's desk in the House of Representatives. They are the only people who can place bills in the hopper. A bill clerk in the House of Representatives will assign a number to a bill, and this number usually begins with the code H.R. After that, the bill will be read to all the Representatives by a reading clerk, and it will be sent by the Speaker of the House to a House standing committee.
A House of Representatives standing committee is made up of Representatives who are experts in certain fields, such as education, agriculture, foreign affairs, and others. The committee members will review the bill and make the necessary revision before sending it back to the House of Representatives floor. In the event that the committee needs more information about the bill, a subcommittee will be given the task to do further research on the subject. After the subcommittee has evaluated the bill thoroughly and gathered enough expert opinions, it will send the bill back to the committee.
After approval by a House standing committee, the bill will be debated by the House of Representatives. Representatives will participate in a discussion and give reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with the bill. The bill will then be read by a reading clerk one section after another, and the Representatives will suggest changes. After the suggested changes are made, the voting process will begin.
Voting on a bill can be done in three different ways. In the "viva voce", or voice vote, method, Representatives who agree with the bill have to say "aye", and those who disagree have to say "nay". The "division" method requires Representatives to stand up and be counted when the Speaker of the House asks to see those who agree and disagree. In the "recorded" method, an electronic voting system will be used to record the votes of the Representatives, which can be "yes", "no", or "present". The "present" option is for Representatives who do not want to vote. If the bill is approved by a majority of the Representatives, it will be sent to the US House of Representatives. The Clerk of the House will then certify it and send it to the Senate.
The Bill is Sent to the Senate
In the US Senate, the bill will go through a process of evaluation that is much similar to that in the House of Representatives. It will also be evaluated by a Senate committee and sent to the Senate floor for voting. US Senators use the "viva voce" method, and the bill will be sent to the US Senate if a majority of the Senators give their approval. Then, it will be sent to the President.
The Bill Reaches the President
The President can make three choices when he receives the bill. Firstly, he can sign the bill and turn it into a law. Alternatively, he can veto, or refuse to sign, the bill. In this case, the President will give reasons for his veto and return the bill to the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives and the Senate still want to make the bill a law, they can hold another voting session. The President's veto can be overridden if the bill is approved by two-thirds of all the Representatives and Senators. The President also has the right to do a pocket veto, which means that he makes no decision on the bill. If this happens, the bill will become a law after ten days if the Congress is in session. It will not become a law if the Congress is not in session.
The Bill Becomes a Law
A bill becomes a law after it is approved by the House of Representatives, Senate, and the President, or a veto by the President has been overridden. It will then be enforced by the federal government.
For more information on the legislative process and how laws are made, visit the following links:
- How Laws Are Made: A detailed account of the process of making a law.
- The Making of a Law: Step-by-step explanation of how laws are made.
- How a Bill Becomes a Law?: An illustrated slide show that explains how a bill becomes a law.
- Lifecycle of a Bill: A citizen's guide to lawmaking.
- The Legislative Process: This document describes every stage of the legislative process.
- Bill Drafting Guidelines: Clear instructions on how to draft a bill.
- House of Representatives Legislative Process: Comprehensive description of the legislative process in the House of Representatives.
- US Senate Legislative Process: Learn about various procedures of the legislative process in this web page.
- White House Legislative Branch: Official web page of the presidential legislative branch.
- US Legislative Documents: Find out what documents need to be produced during the process of lawmaking.