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In a Nutshell: How a Bill Becomes a Law

Legislation | 03/29/2017

Lauren Craig
State Operations Coordinator

Each year, the Colorado General Assembly convenes to pass bills and resolutions for a 120-day legislative session. While there is a lot of attention focused on the actions of the federal government, many people don’t realize the role the Colorado legislature plays on our daily lives. Many of the bills passed in Denver directly impact our lives; they determine state spending priorities, define how students are assessed, regulate water rights, and even determine the types of body wash we can purchase. It may seem complicated, but the legislative process is relatively simple.

A bill can start in either the House or the Senate, but regardless, the process of passing a bill is the same. In this blog, I will refer to the House as the first chamber where the bill is introduced. Keep reading to learn the steps of how a bill becomes a law + we have a graphic!

Step 1: A bill is introduced in the House.

Step 2: The bill is assigned to a House committee and debated among the committee members. Anyone with an interest in the bill can testify in support or opposition before committee members vote to support or kill the bill.

Step 3: If the bill passes out of committee, it is debated on second reading by all members of the House. Representatives express their support or opposition on a voice vote.

Step 4: If the bill passes on second reading, all Representatives have another opportunity to debate it on third reading. Members vote on final passage of the bill.

Step 5: The finalized version of the House bill moves to the Senate, and the process repeats.

Step 6: The bill is sent to the Governor’s desk, where he either vetoes it, or signs it into law.

*In steps 2-4, the bill can be amended. Any amendments must be voted on.  It's worth noting that both chambers must approve the same bill so if there are any differences a conference committee of members from both chambers will be convened to iron out differences.  Please follow our weekly rundown of education activity at the state Capitol while the legislature is in session, This Week at the Capitol, on our blog

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