Overview of Legislative Process

LEGISLATIVE PROCESS

1. Introduction... Only legislators may introduce bills. A bill may be introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. After a bill has been drafted and prepared for introduction, it is presented to the chief clerk, who assigns it a number. The reading clerk reads it twice by number and title along with the name of the principal sponsor. The presiding officer orders the bill printed and assigns it to one or more appropriate committees for further study. With few exceptions, bills must be introduced by the halfway mark of a session.

2. Committee Action... Most of the consideration of legislation in New Mexico is done in committees. It is in committees that the public has the opportunity to testify in favor of or in opposition to a bill. After considering the testimony, the committee can take one of several actions.

It may: a) recommend to the legislative body that a bill DO PASS, DO PASS AS AMENDED or DO NOT PASS, or refer the bill back to the floor WITHOUT RECOMMENDATION; b) substitute a new and similar bill for the original bill, incorporating changes the committee wishes to make; c) recommend referral of the bill to another committee; or d) simply do nothing and let the bill die by not reporting it out of committee. Committee reports are subject to adoption by the full House or Senate. When a favorable committee report is adopted, the bill is placed on the calendar, which is the schedule of business the House or Senate will consider on a given day.

3. Final Passage... When a bill is called for its third reading, members may debate its pros and cons on the chamber floor. Amendments may be added at this stage, or the entire bill may be substituted by another bill similar to it. The sponsor of the bill is allowed to close debate by speaking last on the bill. A final vote is taken and recorded.

4. Sent to the Other House... If a bill receives a favorable vote, it is sent, with a letter of transmittal, to the other house, where it follows much the same procedure. To many, this duplication of process may seem unnecessary; however, this duplication in our form of government provides a necessary check to ensure that all aspects of the bill have been considered before it is enacted into law.

5. Concurrence... A bill that is amended in the second house must be sent back to the first house for agreement. This is called concurrence. If concurrence is denied, the second house votes on whether to recede, or withdraw, from its amendment. If the second house fails to recede, the bill is usually sent to a conference committee to work out a version agreeable to both houses. The report of the conference committee must be agreed to by both houses in order for the bill to pass.

6. Enrolling and Engrossing... When both houses of the legislature have agreed on the final version of a bill, it is enrolled and engrossed, which means that it is copied very carefully, with all of its amendments incorporated. The presiding officers of both houses sign the bill, and it is sent to the Governor for his or her consideration.

7. Governor’s Approval or Veto... The Governor may either sign the bill, in which case it becomes law, or he or she may veto it, in which case it does not become law unless the legislature overrides the Governor’s veto. A bill received by the Governor during or after the last three days of a legislative session is automatically vetoed — in what is known as a “pocket veto” — if the Governor does not sign it within 20 days of the legislature’s adjournment. On the other hand, a bill received by the Governor with more than three days left in the session automatically becomes law, even without the Governor’s signature, unless he or she vetoes it.

8. Laws... Not all laws go into effect at the same time. Some bills carry emergency clauses and become effective as soon as the Governor signs them, some become law 90 days after the legislature adjourns and others take effect at the start of the next fiscal or calendar year.

PASSAGE OF A BILL

1. Introduction and Committee Referral. A bill may be introduced in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. It is assigned a number, read twice by title, ordered printed and referred to the proper committee.

2. Committee Consideration. Committee meetings are usually open to the public. A bill may receive one of the following recommendations: Do Pass, Do Pass As Amended, Do Not Pass, Without Recommendation or Without Recommendation As Amended.

3. Adoption of Committee Report. Reports of committees are subject to adoption by the full House and Senate. When a favorable committee report is adopted, the bill is placed on the calendar, which is the list of bills scheduled for third reading and possible final passage.

4. Third Reading and Final Passage. This is the stage at which the fate of a bill is usually decided. Action may be to amend a bill, to substitute one bill for another, to send a bill back to committee, to refer it to another committee or to defeat it altogether.

5. Voting on a Bill. Following sometimes lengthy debate on a bill, a final and recorded vote is taken on whether it is to pass. There must be a quorum of the committee present and every bill requires at least a majority vote of the members present and voting in order to pass. A quorum is generally a simple majority of the members.

6. What happens next? The bill is sent to the other house and repeats much the same procedure outlined above. Both houses must agree on the final form of a bill. If either house fails to concur with an amendment, the differences must be reconciled by a conference committee representing both the House and Senate. A compromise worked out in a conference committee is subject to approval by both houses.

 
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