How an idea becomes law

How an idea becomes law (770k This file is in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. Click here to download.)

The legislative process is governed by rules, laws and procedures, making it somewhat mechanical in nature. Although the legislative process is long and complex, all laws begin as ideas.

An idea for a law can come from anyone; an individual or group of citizens, a legislator or legislative committee, the executive or judicial branch, or a lobbyist. By statute state agencies must presession file bills. But during session, only a legislator or a legislative committee can introduce a measure to the House or Senate for consideration.

Legislators may file an unlimited number of measures between the general election and the time the legislature convenes. Once the legislature convenes, Senators are allowed unlimited introductions for the first 36 calendar days; Representatives for the first 36 days.

If deadlines are missed, the Senate Rules Committee or the House Committee on Legislative Rules and Reorganization must approve requests for drafting and/or introduction. Appropriation or fiscal measures sponsored by the Joint Committee on Ways and Means are exempt from filing deadlines and may be introduced at any time.

Types of Measures

The Legislative Assembly can accomplish tasks in addition to creating, amending or repealing laws. It can honor a distinguished Oregonian, propose an amendment to the Oregon constitution, or send a message on behalf of the Oregon legislature to the President of the United States. In these instances, a bill is not the appropriate form of measure.

There are six types of measures: a bill, joint resolution, concurrent resolution, resolution, joint memorial and memorial.

A bill, the most common type of measure, is a proposal for a law. All statutes, except those initiated by the people or referred to the people by the Legislative Assembly, must be enacted through a bill.

The path of a bill, from the time it is just an idea to the time it arrives at the Governor's desk for approval, is paved with many detours. In order for a bill to become law, it must be passed by both houses in the identical form. This is achieved through the following step-by-step process, using the House of Representatives, for example, as the house of origin.

  • An idea to change, amend or create a new law is presented to a Representative.

  • The Representative decides to sponsor the bill and introduce it to the House of Representatives, and requests that the attorneys in the Legislative Counsels office draft the bill in the proper legal language.

  • The bill is then presented to the Chief Clerk of the House, who assigns the bill a number and sends it back to the Legislative Counsel's office to verify it is in proper legal form and style.

  • The bill is then sent to the State Printing Division, where it is printed and returned to House of Representatives for its first reading.

  • After the bill's first reading, the Speaker refers it to a committee. The bill is also forwarded to the Legislative Fiscal Officer and Legislative Revenue Officer for determination of fiscal or revenue impact the measure might have.

  • The committee reviews the bill, holds public hearings and work sessions.

  • In order for the bill to go to the House floor for a final vote, or be reported out of committee, a committee report is signed by the committee chair and delivered back to the Chief Clerk.

  • Any amendments to the bill are printed and the bill may be reprinted to include the amendments (engrossed bill).

  • The bill, now back in the house of origin (House), has its second reading.

  • The measure then has its third reading, which is its final recitation before the vote. This is the time the body debates the measure. To pass, the bill must receive aye votes of a majority of members (31 in the House, 16 in the Senate).

  • If the bill is passed by a majority of the House members, it is sent to the Senate.

  • The bill is read for the first time and the Senate President assigns it to committee. The committee reports the bill back to the Senate where the bill is given the second and third readings.

  • If the bill is passed in the Senate without changes, it is sent back to the House for enrolling.

  • If the bill is amended in the Senate by even one word, it must be sent back to the House for concurrence. If the House does not concur with the amendments, the presiding officers of each body appoint a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill.

  • After the bill has passed both houses in the identical form, it is signed by three officers: the Speaker of the House, the Senate President, and the Chief Clerk of the House or Secretary of the Senate, depending on where the bill originated.

  • The enrolled bill is then sent to the Governor who has five days to take action. If the Legislative Assembly is adjourned the Governor has 30 days to consider it.

  • If the Governor chooses to sign the bill, it will become law on the prescribed effective date. The Governor may allow a bill to become law without his/her signature, or the Governor may decide to veto the bill. The Governor's veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses.

  • The signed enrolled bill, or act, is then filed with the Secretary of State, who assigns it an Oregon Laws chapter number.

  • Staff in the Legislative Counsel's office insert the text of the new laws into the existing Oregon Revised Statutes in the appropriate locations and make any other necessary code changes.

Effective Date of Legislation

The Oregon Constitution provides that laws become effective 90 days after adjournment of the Legislative Assembly unless the bill indicates otherwise. Some bills contain a clause which specify a particular effective date. Still others may have emergency, sunset, or referendum clauses attached.

View resources related to:
  1. Advocacy
  2. Legislative ‑ Oregon
  3. Legislative