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Episode 4 | How a Bill Becomes a Law

Apr 29, 2022

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Today, Karen breaks down the basics of how a bill becomes a law. CLICK HERE for the link to find additional information specifically for your state.

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Hey, Karen England here with the Kitchen Table Activist. This is where we take you from being a keyboard warrior to a citizen lobbyist. And so I'm glad you're along for the ride today. We're going to talk about something that's really, really important. It's going to be a short podcast, but it's important. It's one of those back to the basics and that's, how a bill becomes a law. So, while we've got a lot of states and it's different everywhere, the basics are the same. So, in our principal handouts on the podcast, if you are part of the Kitchen Table Activist team, you will get a handout that gives you some links to find out specifically how your state works when your state is in legislative session, because every state is different. So check that out, but everything sort of starts the same.

So, it starts with an idea and unfortunately, most of the time they're really bad ideas. So, Nevada does a legislative session every other year for their regular session. California and Tennessee, they're every year. And in California and Tennessee, they do about 2000 to 3000 bills a year. I have no idea how I lived my life just fine last year without the 2000 or 3000 new ideas they think should govern my life this year, but somehow these people think that they needed to introduce more laws. They better have a special session where they repeal a bunch of laws that whole year, but all they do is repeal really stupid, silly regulations and laws. But I digress, let's first kind of get things fixed and get our schools fixed and our parental rights back and then we'll worry about getting rid of some of these bad laws that have been on the books forever.

So, it starts an idea, and often the idea comes from a union, like the teacher's union or special interest groups like Planned Parenthood. And that's where the idea starts. It can come from the everyday citizen as well. If you're a small business owner and there's some regulation or there's some hurdle and it's an unintended consequence, you can go to a legislator and ask them to change the law.

So what we recommend is going first to your own legislator and talking with them about it but, if you live somewhere and let's say your idea is on parental rights and you are in a district where the local legislator is a big Planned Parenthood supporter and doesn't support parental rights, then that isn't the person you're going to want to take your idea to. You're basically taking your idea to the enemy. So, you're going to want to find a legislator that you can take the idea to and then they do what they have to do. It’s different in every state. For instance, Tennessee, their laws are one or two pages long and very simple to read. Nevada, their legislation is pretty easy to read and they do things in different colors. So you can see what is the old law versus what's the new law. California is really difficult to read and that's on purpose, but you can still read it. That's where I got my start. I was surprised at how easy it was to read when I would do things like, if you've ever taught phonics, you know how you circle the “ph” and put an “F” on top of it for the sound or the t-i first? Well, I did that with bills and I would take out some of the like, legal words, or I'd figure out what it meant and then I would replace it. This is how I taught myself how to read legislation. I'd replace the legal, hard to understand word with just a common word, like “you can't” versus “prohibit” or something like that. So, anyway, that's one way to kind of teach yourself how to read a bill.

So you give it to the legislator; they introduce it and then it gets a number and the process for how a bill becomes a law is different in every state. So, I'm going to give you just some basics. And then, again, you'll have resources on our website in order to find out specifically in your own state, but it starts with an idea and a legislator takes it. Then when they, what's called “introduce it”, it's given a number. As an example, SB 63 would be Senate Bill 63, and this is the same federally as well.

So, Senate Bill 63 means it was introduced by a Senator and it's the 63rd bill that year that was introduced. Now, on the other side, if you've got two houses of government, an Assembly or a House of Representatives, you are going to have the House Bill 63, some states carry parallel. So, you're going to have a bill; let's say your bill is on parental rights. You're going to have a bill in the House and the Senate, and they're going to be the same bill. Other states, California and ,let's see, Nevada, they do it where the Senate and the House, or the Assembly, have totally different bills and different bill numbers and they have to go through each house. They go through the Assembly and then the Senate and they're not parallel, but in Florida and in Tennessee, the House or the Assembly and the Senate are both talking about the same idea at the same time. And if they both get past both of those houses, they then kind of merge together, for lack of a better word. They call it, “reconciliation” but it's basically they merge the bill and it becomes one. So that's how it's done. During that time, the whole point of public hearings is so that the public can weigh in on it.  Remember, we have a representative government. We are supposed to be letting our representatives know what we think and how we feel about a bill.

So go to our website. You will have the links that talk about when your state is in session. You'll be able to link to your legislative information and find out how a bill becomes a law specifically in your state. Hopefully this will help take away some of that mystery, you know, when you see something on the news and now when you see SB 17 you'll know it's a Senate bill and it was a 17th bill that was introduced.

So that's it on, How a Bill Becomes a Law? Just the basics. I want to thank you for listening and tuning in. This is where we want to encourage you. That we, all of us, have been called for such a time as this.




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