The Legislative Process

 

Legislative Staff (See Staff of the Vermont General Assembly)

  • One of the smallest in the country
  • Professional staff is non partisan, assigned to subject areas, works for entire general assembly
  • Legislators have no personal staff or space to work
  • This makes legislators very accessible to the public

The law making process

  • Ideas for changes to law can come from constituents, the governor, agency, lobbying organization, or a committee but only a legislator or legislative standing committee can introduce a bill.
  • Often a sponsor will seek co-sponsors
  • Bill draft is assigned a number, read on the floor of the House or Senate for the first time, and assigned to a committee (We usually get about 1000 drafting requests and of these about 750 will be approved and assigned a number)
  • Each committee will receive 30 to 100 bills and will work on about 10 of them. The rest will “stay on the wall”.
  • The committee will schedule testimony from experts and interested parties and post an agenda on the door and on the internet.
  • Following testimony, which may take days or weeks, the committee will discuss the bill and usually redraft it.
  • If the committee decides to move the bill, they will draft a committee report and put it on the notice calendar. The next day, one of the members of the committee will “report” the bill to the general assembly, and members may ask questions, debate the merits and offer amendments.
  • At the end of the debate, the members will vote on whether the bill shall be read a second time. If they vote affirmative, the bill is put on the notice calendar for third reading the next day.
  • Before third reading the members may ask questions of the reporter, offer amendments and debate the merits although most bills are thoroughly debated before second reading and there is no discussion at this point.
  • If the bill is passed to third reading it is sent to the other house where the process is repeated.
  • If the other house passes a different version, a committee of conference is appointed to work out the differences.
  • If both houses agree to the committee of conference proposal, the bill is sent to the governor and if signed it becomes law.

Anyone can track the progress of a bill on the internet and by reading the calendars and journals.