Capitol dome in Charleston, WV

West Virginia Legislative Process

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Introduction > Bill Development > Resolutions >Definition of Legislative Terms Definition of Legislative Terms

Bill Development

Bills are proposed laws. They are ideas of ways to correct or address problems in the State. While any individual or group may have an idea for a bill, only a legislator may sponsor a bill and introduce it into the legislative process.

Once the legislator decides to sponsor a bill, an initial draft of the idea may be sent to the Office of Legislative Services for final drafting in proper and consistent bill form. To draft a bill on a particular subject, the appropriate portions of the West Virginia law are combined with the proposed changes.

After the draft legislation is prepared, the sponsor reviews and submits it to the clerk of the chamber of which he / she is a member. The clerk assigns a number to the bill and the presiding officer for the body names the committee or committees that will study the bill.

Introduction of a Bill

A bill is formally introduced on the floor of the House or the Senate when the clerk reads its title and the Speaker or the President announces the committee reference.

Committee Work

There are standing committees in both the Senate and the House, which have the responsibility to review and make recommendations on legislation referred to them regarding a particular subject area (such as finance, education). The number and titles of the standing committees differ between the Senate and the House and are set forth in the rules of each body.

After a bill is introduced on the floor of either chamber, it is sent to a committee for study. Although the committees function as advisors to their bodies with any action taken subject to the will of the full body, committees are central to the workings of the legislative process. It is through the review by several smaller groups of legislators that many of the hundreds of bills introduced in each body during a session receive careful and thorough study.

Legislation to be taken up for discussion in a committee is placed on an agenda. During the committee's discussion, amendments may be offered to the bill. If a bill in the body of origin has numerous changes made to it or if the amendments are confusing or lengthy, a committee substitute may be offered. Once all changes are made and agreed to by a committee - which may require several meetings - a motion is made to report the measure out to the floor in one of the following ways:

This report, along with the original bill and any committee amendments, is filed with the appropriate clerk so the report can be read on the floor and the bill can be placed on the calendar.

Not all legislation is reported back from the committees. Those measures, which are not reported by the end of the session, are considered to have "died in committee."

Floor Action

Floor sessions in both the House and the Senate are governed in large part by the rules of the body and constitutional requirements, and are conducted according to strict parliamentary procedures. A routine agenda, or Order of Business, is followed daily as the basic structure for a floor session.

Senate Daily Order of Business

House Daily Order of Business

Each item of business is taken up, dealt and dispensed with in the sequence shown. If an issue is to be brought up after the body has moved beyond the appropriate order of business, the members must agree to return to that order of business to take care of the matter.

Reading of Bills

It was mentioned earlier that the clerk of each house places bills on a calendar. A calendar is actually a listing of what will be taken up on a given day usually under three orders of business; bills on third reading, bills on second reading and bills on first reading.

The reading of bills generally occur on three separate days as stipulated in the State Constitution. However, the constitutional rule may be suspended by a four-fifths vote of the membership, allowing two or three readings of a bill to take place on one day.

When a bill is read, the reading clerk along with the bill number recites the title or brief summary of the measure. If a bill is not delayed on first or second reading, the bill is "advanced" to the next reading stage once the body completes its action.

A bill is read three times to accomplish three different purposes:

The First reading of a bill is called the information stage, Informing the members that the bill will be discussed.

On Second reading, or amendment stage, any committee recommendations and changes proposed by individual members are discussed and acted on. It is the amendments, and not the bill itself, that are debated on second reading. Each amendment is voted on separately, with no limit to the number of amendments, which may be offered, and are adopted or rejected. After second reading, a bill is "ordered to engrossment and third reading." An engrossed version of a bill includes all adopted amendments.

Third reading is the passage stage of a bill. Debate on the merits and drawbacks of a bill occurs at this time. After debate is completed, the bill is either passed or rejected.

If the bill is passed, it is sent to the other chamber of the Legislature where it is referred to committee and the process repeats itself.

Conference Committees

The second chamber may change a bill passed by the first body. For a bill to complete legislative action, both bodies must approve identical legislation. Therefore an agreement must be reached when changes are made.

After the first body receives the message from the second chamber that an amendment has been made in an engrossed bill, the first chamber may either accept the amendment or send a message to the other chamber asking the body to "recede" from its amendments. The second body may back down from its position, or it may refuse to recede. If the second body refuses to recede, then a conference committee is necessary to iron out those items in a bill the two bodies disagree on in order for the bill to pass.

A conference committee is composed of an equal number of Senators, appointed by the President, and Delegates, appointed by the Speaker. As with standing committees, changes made in a bill by a conference committee are recommendations, which the full bodies must act on. Once a compromise is reached, the co-chairs of the conference committee report to their respective bodies. The conference committee report must then be accepted (adopted) or rejected. If the report is adopted, the amended version of the bill must be voted on for its passage or rejection.

Action by 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 governor must act the budget bill and supplemental appropriations bills on within five days, regardless of when he receives them. If the governor does not act within these time limits, the bill automatically becomes law.

If the governor vetoes a bill, the Legislature can override the veto with a majority vote of both houses. The exceptions to this exist with the budget bill or a supplemental appropriations bill. A two-thirds vote of both houses is needed to override a governor's veto in these instances.

In all cases, once both houses pass the same version of a bill, it becomes an enrolled bill and is sent to the governor for his consideration.

Successful Bills

After a bill becomes a law, it is called an act. The "Acts of the Legislature" are published annually and reflect all of the measures which become law in a given year.

The acts are inserted into the appropriate portions of the West Virginia Code, which is a series of books containing the laws of the state.

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