Capitol dome in Charleston, WV

West Virginia Legislative Process

Introduction > Legislative Process > Policy Making > Committee System > Bill Becomes Law > Take the Test > Resources

A Bill Becomes Law

A bill is an idea for a new law, or an idea to change or do away with an existing law.

Hundreds of bills enter the legislative process in West Virginia each time the Legislature meets.

Two groups of elected citizens - 34 senators and 100 delegates - study, discuss and vote on bills, and in doing so act for the people of West Virginia.

Bills enter the legislative process either through the House of Delegates or the Senate, but to become laws, bills must pass both chambers and avoid a governor's veto.

The Idea

Anyone can propose an idea for a bill to a legislator - a private citizen, corporation, professional association, special interest group or even a governmental unit. But, all bills must be sponsored by one or more legislators to be considered by the Legislature. In the House, the number of sponsors of a bill or a constitutional amendment is limited to seven and the Senate has no limit on sponsorship.


Bills may go through the Office of Legislative Services or legislative staff counsel to assure that they are in proper bill form. To draft a bill on a particular subject, the appropriate portion(s) of West Virginia law are combined with the proposed changes.

After the draft legislation is prepared, the legislator reviews it and submits it to the clerk of the chamber of which he or she is a member for introduction.


Prior to introduction, the clerk identifies each bill with a separate number. This number is used as a reference for the bill throughout the legislative session.

After the bill is numbered the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Delegates assigns the bill to a committee or committees. When the bill is formally introduced on the floor of the chamber, the bill number and the committee reference(s) are announced.

Committee Study

Standing Committees are small groups of senators or delegates assigned to study bills involving a particular subject. This process enables a larger number of bills to receive more detailed study than can be done by the entire House or Senate.

Since a committee represents only part of the membership of either chamber, it only can make recommendations about a bill for the full membership to consider. When a committee has completed work on a bill, it files a written committee report that reflects one of the following:

Some bills "die in committee" meaning the committee did not have enough time to take up the issue or the committee members decided the bill should not be recommended to the full membership for action.

Floor Action

Once a bill is reported out of committee, the bill along with the committee's recommendation, is presented to the clerk of the appropriate house. After the committee report summary is read on the floor, the bill is placed on the calendar which is a daily list of bills to be considered in the House or Senate.

During the latter part of a session, two calendars may be printed in House Journals, the House Calendar and the Special Calendar. The House Rules Committee determines the most important bills to be considered and places them on the special calendar. Only those items on the special calendar are taken up by the body. In the Senate, the Rules Committee may arrange a calendar.

Floor action taken by the House or Senate is recorded by each clerk's office and printed daily in what is known as the House Journal and the Senate Journal. At the rear of the Journals, the calendar of bills to be acted on appears. The calendar is divided into bills on third reading, bills on second reading and bills on first reading.

Under the State Constitution, a bill is to be read three times. The first reading of the bill is the information stage and alerts the membership that a bill will be considered. On second reading, members vote on the committee's amendments and amendments individual legislators have proposed to the bill. The vote on passage of the bill takes place on third reading.

Action by the Second Chamber

If a bill is passed by one house, it is sent to the other body where it will be referred to committee and the process is repeated.

Conference Committees

If changes are made in a bill by the second house, it must be sent back to the first chamber for its concurrence. If the first chamber does not agree and the second body refuses to remove the changes it made, a conference with an equal number of representatives from both houses is named to work on the differences in the bill.

If this committee can reach a compromise on the points of disagreement in a bill. both chambers must adopt the conference committee report and again vote on the passage of the bill. When a compromise cannot be reached, either another conference committee may be appointed or the measure dies in committee when the Legislature adjourns.

Action by the Governor

After a bill passes both chambers in the same form, it is sent to the governor. While the Legislature is in session, the governor has five days to approve or veto a bill he receives. After the Legislature adjourns, the governor has 15 days to act on most bills before him. However, the budget bill and supplemental appropriations bills must be acted on by the governor within five days regardless of when he receives them (excluding Sundays). If the governor does not act within these time limits, the bill automatically becomes law.

Overriding a Veto

If the Legislature is still in session when the governor vetoes an ordinary bill, a simple majority vote of the members elected to both legislative bodies is necessary to override the veto. In cases when a budget bill or supplemental appropriation bill is vetoed, a two-thirds vote of the members elected to both houses is needed to override the action.

Monitoring Legislation

The West Virginia Legislature operates a Reference and Information Center so citizens will have ready access to accurate information about the Legislature. If you would like copies of a particular bill, would like to know the status of certain legislation or would like to know what will be taken up in the House or Senate on a given day, the office of Legislative Reference and Information is available to assist you.

An assortment of written material about the legislative process, such as A Directory of the West Virginia Legislature and A Guide Through the Legislative Process, may be obtained through this office.

These services are available to West Virginia residents via the office's toll-free telephone line (800-642-8650). Those individuals living out-of-state or those living in Charleston may wish to call the office at 304-347-4836.

Mountain State Centers for Independent Living