State representative explains legislative process

The 2018 legislative session began Jan. 3 and must conclude by March 14. Within these 10 weeks is when new laws can be passed in Indiana. While the process for a proposal to become a law is somewhat complicated, the system works to ensure that all pros and cons of a policy are fully vetted and considered.

The first step for a bill to become a law is gathering ideas and feedback from constituents. These ideas can range from addressing local roadway issues to removing obsolete regulations. This is when the official legislative process begins, and legislators get to work on behalf of constituents to develop a bill proposal. This is done in coordination with the Legislative Services Agency, a non-partisan office that handles all fiscal analysis and research matters on behalf of all 150 state lawmakers.

The Legislative Services Agency assigns each bill proposal a draft number. For example, the state’s budget bill always is assigned draft number 1001. This is important to note because on the site iga.in.gov, visitors can use draft numbers to read each proposal.

The bill can then be assigned to a committee for review, where lawmakers will discuss the pros and cons of the suggested legislation. During committee meetings, members can offer amendments to the bill. Each legislator is selected to serve on two or three committees. This year, I will be serving as vice chair for the House Committee on Ways and Means, and as a member for both the House Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedures, and the House Committee on Government and Regulatory Reform.

After a bill is assigned to a committee, members can choose to keep the bill’s language as-is, or they can make changes. Industry experts and the general public can testify in front of committee members, and meetings are open to the public and streamed live at iga.in.gov. If the bill passes out of committee, it then moves to second reading, which takes place in the chamber of the House of Representatives.

While on second reading, the bill is discussed before all 100 House members. Again, members can make changes to the bill if needed. Legislators can either propose amendments to the bill, assign it to another committee, or simply pass it forward. Amendments that are made during the second reading must earn a majority vote before the bill makes it to the third reading.

During the third reading, the House will once again debate the pros and cons of the bill before voting on it for a final time. In order to pass, the bill must receive a constitutional majority vote. If this happens, the bill will move to the Senate and the process will be repeated.

The Senate is able to make further amendments, however these amendments must be agreed upon by the House. If the House is not willing to agree to the amendments, a conference committee is established to work out the differences. Each conference committee consists of two members from the House and two members from the Senate. Once an agreement is reached, all four members must sign off on the changed bill and then it must be passed by a constitutional majority in both the House and Senate.

If a bill makes it to this point, it is then sent to the governor. The governor can either choose to veto the bill, sign the bill into law or wait seven days for the bill to become law without a signature. Although rare, when a bill is vetoed the legislature can override the governor’s decision with a majority vote.

As I said, the process for a proposal to become a law can be complicated, and we want to best serve our constituents. I value all of your opinions and suggestions. As we move through session, please contact me at 317-232-9651 or h53@iga.in.gov. Stay up-to-date with Statehouse duties by signing up for my email newsletter at in.gov/h53.

State Rep. Bob Cherry represents House District 53, which includes portions of Hancock and Madison counties. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.