How a bill becomes a law
A piece of legislation often goes through a long and tedious process between the time it is introduced and when it is signed and adopted into law. Though you don’t need to know all the steps, a basic understanding will help you to be a better advocate for children. Here is an outline of how new laws are adopted.
- A bill is introduced and presented by a legislator. The bill is given a number and then assigned to a committee in the House or Senate.
- The bill is examined and heard by the committee members. Testimony, often representing the views of experts, public officials, and advocates, is presented to the committee at a bill hearing. The committee then makes a favorable report, an unfavorable report, or no recommendation. If the committee does not support the bill, it dies.
- If the committee supports the bill, it goes to the floor of the chamber of origin for a vote.
- After debate, a vote is taken and the bill is either passed or defeated. If it is passed, the bill gets referred to the other chamber (House or Senate) and generally follows the same sequence of events. If it is defeated, the bill dies.
- The other chamber may choose to approve, reject, ignore, or change the bill through amendments. If it is approved or changed, it is sent back to the original house for concurrence. If it is rejected or ignored, the bill typically dies.
- If the original house does not accept the amendments, a conference committee comprised of members of both houses is appointed to work through the differences. Both houses must pass the bill in identical form; if they are unable to reach an agreement, the bill dies.
- In Maryland, shortly after the General Assembly Session ends, bills that have been passed are presented to the Governor. The Governor then has 30 days to either veto or sign the bills. A bill is adopted as law if either: the Governor signs the bill within the allotted time, or the bill is not vetoed within the 30-day period.
As an informed advocate, it is important for you to have a basic understanding of the budget process in the State of Maryland. These key facts will be helpful in your advocacy efforts:
- Maryland operates under an executive budget system. This means that the Governor sets most of the fiscal priorities, and the executive branch prepares the budget.
- The Governor submits the budget to the General Assembly. The budget is balanced and complete with intended revenues and spending.
- The General Assembly has limited budget making powers. It can cut funds but it cannot transfer funds from one category to another. In addition, it can make increases only if it provides a new source of revenue to cover the cost.
- Once passed through both houses, the budget is enacted as law. It does not require the Governor’s signature, and it is not subject to veto.
Every year the Maryland General Assembly meets in Annapolis for 90 days to discuss and act on more than 2,000 bills, some of which are related to child care, early education, and other issues related to children and families. The specific dates of the session vary by year, but they always fall between the months of January and April. These three months are incredibly busy for legislators and advocates alike, and serve as the most critical times for bills under consideration. More detailed information regarding the session dates, schedule of hearings, subcommittee members, and specific bills can be obtained by contacting the Maryland General Assembly.
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