The Edmond Sun

December 10, 2012

The real story of how a bill becomes law

Rep. Jason Murphey
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — This week marks the first deadline when state legislators (representatives and senators) must submit notice of their intent to file bills for the 2013 legislative session.

By House rule, representatives are limited to eight legislative initiatives, so we must carefully select the ideas we want to advance. Because of this limit, I attempt to sponsor a balanced portfolio of legislation that advances significant government reforms and legislation that has been requested by the local constituency.

Passing legislation is a challenging process.

Only a small percentage of introduced bills (with the exception of the appropriations bills) are successfully signed into law. What follows is a description of the process a bill must follow in order to be approved.

The House author must convince a senator to sponsor his bill in the Senate.

It is important to choose a senator based on his/her abilities and commitment to the principle of the bill.

The bill will be assigned to a House committee where the chairman decides whether to give the bill a hearing and, if so, the full committee is then required to vote on passage. Many bills die without a hearing because special interests often heavily lobby the committee chairman to refuse a hearing of the bill before the committee.

A bill passed by a committee must receive permission from the Majority Floor Leader in order to be considered by the full House.

If he/she consents to providing a hearing on the floor of the House, the full House has to vote on passage.

Numerous bills fail to receive the clearance of the Majority Floor Leader for placement onto the floor calendar and even if they are placed on the calendar, they still may not be heard simply because the deadline for hearing the bill kicks in before the bill can be heard by the full House.

Once the bill is approved by the House, it is sent to the Senate where the process is repeated, including a committee assignment, a vote in committee and a vote on the floor of the Senate. At any time, the bill is subject to being killed because of not receiving a hearing due to opposition from special interest groups. Even when approving a House bill, the Senate usually will strike the title of the bill, which will force it to go into the conference committee process, because no bill can become law without a title.

The bill then returns to the House where any Senate amendments must be considered by a vote of the House. If the author of the bill rejects the Senate amendments, the bill goes to a conference committee.

If either the Senate or the House leadership fails to assign conference committee members (conferees) to the bill prior to the deadline for assignments, the bill dies.

 If the leadership of either the House or Senate decide that they do not support the bill, they simply refuse to appoint conferees, which kills the bill. If conferees are assigned, the bill has to receive the support of a majority of both House and Senate conference committee members.

This means the author of the bill has to once again present the bill in the committee environment.

If the conference committee approves the bill, it needs approval once again through a vote of the entire House and Senate.

 If the bill is not scheduled by the Legislature’s late May deadline in either the House or Senate, it does not pass.

This provides leadership with one final method of killing a bill should they choose to do so.

If both Houses approve the bill, it is sent to the governor for her approval.

If the governor vetoes the bill, it has to go back to the House and the Senate for a possible override vote. In order to override the governor’s veto, at least two-thirds of both House and Senate must vote for the override. In the past 15 years, I can only recall one bill that has become law despite a veto.

As the reader can see, winning approval for reform-minded legislation isn’t always an easy task. But, each year, I enjoy the challenge of creating and advocating for legislation that both reduces the size of state government while also making it more transparent to the taxpayers.



REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at jason.murphey@okhouse.gov, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.