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A bill becoming a law involves planning

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Elections have now passed and we are approaching the business period of the North Dakota Legislative Session. Many important discussions and proposed legislative matters will be heard to address a wide variety of issues. Requests for funding of programs or changes in law come before the Legislative body as a written document called a bill. To provide some understanding how the process works the Legislative Branch provides the following explanation.

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Between the conclusion of the organizational session (Dec. 3 through Dec. 5, 2012) and the start of the regular session (Jan. 8, 2013), a legislator may pre-file a bill with the Legislative Council, which numbers the bill and has the bill printed so that copies are available when the Legislative Assembly convenes in regular session. These pre-filed bills are technically introduced on the first day of the regular session, even though they have received numbers, have been printed, and have been referred to the appropriate standing committees by the Lieutenant Governor (for Senate measures) or the Speaker of the House (for House measures).

During a legislative session, a legislator can deliver a bill to the bill clerk of the appropriate house any time during the day. If the bill has not been prepared by the Legislative Council staff, the bill is delivered to the Legislative Council staff for a review to determine if the bill complies with the form and style requirements for bills. The Legislative Council staff prepares the bill in accordance with the requirements, then returns the form and style bill to the bill clerk. Every bill received by the bill clerk before the deadline set for that day is numbered by the clerk and is introduced during the Ninth Order of Business (the order for introducing bills of that house). Upon introduction, the bill's title is read by the Secretary of the Senate or Chief Clerk of the House. This is known as the First Reading.

Once a bill receives its first reading, this procedure is followed:

The presiding officer refers the bill to a standing committee with the appropriate subject matter jurisdiction over the bill, e.g., a bill relating to game and fish licenses would be referred to the Natural Resources Committee. The committee chairman schedules a public hearing on the bill. By custom every bill referred to committee is scheduled for public hearing.

After public hearing the committee must report the bill back to the floor for a vote. The legislative rules require every bill referred to committee to be reported back to the floor for a vote. A committee report is received during the Fifth Order of Business. A committee must make one or more of the following recommendations with respect to a bill: do pass, do not pass, be amended, be referred to another committee, or be placed on the calendar without recommendation.

Every bill reported from committee is placed on the calendar for consideration during the Eleventh Order of Business (the order for Second Reading, when measures are voted on for final passage) the next day. If the recommendation is for amendment, the amendment is voted on first under the Sixth Order of Business (when amendments are considered), rather than final passage, and then the amended bill is voted on the day following the day of the vote on the amendment. For example, a bill is reported back on Wednesday (during the Fifth Order), the amendment is voted on Thursday (during the Sixth Order), and the vote on final passage is on Friday (during the Eleventh Order). If the bill passes, it is messaged (delivered) to the other house, where a similar procedure is followed. If the bill is amended in the other house, it is returned to the house of origin for concurrence. If the house of origin does not concur, the presiding officer of each house appoints three members to a six-member conference committee to resolve differences. The house of origin votes on the conference committee report first, then the other house votes on the conference committee report.

Once a bill has passed both houses in exactly the same form, it is enrolled (retyped with all amendments in place) by the Legislative Council staff, signed by the presiding officer of each house, and delivered to the Governor for approval.

The Governor may sign a bill and forward it to the Secretary of State, forward a bill to the Secretary of State without signature, or veto a bill or items in a bill. While the Legislative Assembly is in session, a bill becomes law if the Governor neither signs nor vetoes it within three legislative days after its delivery to the Governor. If the Legislative Assembly is not in session, a bill becomes law if the Governor neither signs nor vetoes it within 15 days, Saturdays and Sundays excepted, after its delivery to the Governor. If the Governor vetoes a bill while the Legislative Assembly is in session, the Governor must return the bill to the house of origin for a vote on whether to sustain (agree with) the veto. If the house of origin passes the bill by a two-thirds vote of the members-elect, the bill is sent to the other house and if that house passes the bill by a two-thirds vote of the members-elect, the veto is overridden and the bill is delivered to the Secretary of State.

A law usually takes effect on August 1 after its filing with the Secretary of State. An appropriation measure for the support and maintenance of state departments and institutions or a tax measure that changes tax rates takes effect on July 1 after its filing with the Secretary of State. Later effective dates can be specified in a bill, and a law that is declared an emergency measure and which passes each house by a vote of two-thirds of the members-elect of each house can take effect upon its filing with the Secretary of State.

(source: http://www.legis.nd.gov/information/general/bill-law.html 12 November 2012)

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