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During each two-year term of the Florida Legislature Representatives

and Senators introduce a total of 2,000 to 3,000 thousand bills. Many of

these are companion bills, or bills with the same text that are introduced

in both houses so they will move along in the legislative process until

each clears all committees of reference, these bills may be merged for

floor consideration.

 

The first hurdle for a bill is finding a sponsor.

 

The idea for a bill may originate anywhere. The Governor and the

Executive Branch, the Judiciary, interest groups, corporations, unions,

and individuals: all these provide the ideas but only a senator or a

representative may introduce a bill. The original bill most likely will be

drafted for the legislator by the Senate or House drafting services, which

must clear the bill for legal form.

 

The second hurdle is committee reference.

 

Every bill begins its legislative course by being filed with the Clerk of the

House or the Secretary of the Senate. If the Legislature is in session, the

bill will be given first reading generally by publication of its title in the

Journal of chamber (senate or house) where it is introduced. Out of

session, this action is known as prefiling. It will bear the signature of the

sponsor and those of other legislators who have joined as cosponsors.

(Other members may join as co-sponsors as the bill moves along.)

 

The Clerk or the Secretary assigns the bill a number that will identify it

forever. The Speaker or President will be given a copy for the purpose of

referring the bill to one or more committees. Hundreds more copies are

printed for members and the public. Whether a bill ultimately will become

law may depend upon these references because a one-third to a

one-fourth of all bills die in committee.

 

The subcommittee is the third hurdle.

 

Committee action is the vital stage in lawmaking. Bills are routinely

referred to a committee whose domain may be inferred from its name

although, unlike Congress, no formal description of its area of jurisdiction

exists.

 

The number of committees may change from the administration of one

presiding officer to the next. In the House, almost every bill will go to a

standing subcommittee, which possesses the power to report a bill

unfavorably. The only standing subcommittee in the Senate is the

Committee on Ways and Means although select subcommittees may be

created from time to time to meet special situations.

 

Consideration by the parent committee is the fourth hurdle.

 

If the bill is reported favorable by the subcommittee and parent

committee, perhaps with committee amendments or a total rewrite known

as a Committee Substitute, the bill either goes to another committee of

reference, if any, or to the House Calendar.

 

The Rules Committee is the fifth hurdle.

 

The Calendar is a shelf list of bills available for inclusion in the Special

Order Calendar. This calendar is assembled by the Committee on Rules

and Calendar, and, as a generalization, only bills on the Special Order

Calendar (except local bills), will be considered by the Senate or House.

 

Floor consideration is the sixth consideration.

 

The bill finally reaches the floor for consideration. This is the stage the

public usually thinks of as decisive in the life of a piece of legislation, yet

virtually every bill passes that reaches the floor although it may be

extensively modified there by amendments. The killer amendment would,

if adopted, strike the enacting clause. To be constitutionally sound, each

bill must contain the language: "Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the

State of Florida." In the case of joint resolutions (proposed amendments

to the State Constitution), the clause commences: "Be It Resolved etc."

 

Floor action has two parts known as readings. First reading occurred

when the bill was introduced. Reading is a misleading term for the bill's

title usually will not be read at all on first reading but simply published in

the Journal. While the constitution requires the title to be read on second

and third readings, the Florida Supreme Court has held that informing the

members of the bill before them may be performed by reading only the

bill number or a sufficient amount of the language to identify the subject.

 

Second reading is basically for the purpose of considering amendments

of the bill while third reading is for the purpose of debating the merits of

the bill in its final amended form in that chamber. Amendments may be

offered on third reading but can be adopted only by a two-thirds vote.

These third-reading amendments generally correct errors of a technical

nature that occurred in the second reading. A roll call is required by the

constitution to pass a bill.

 

The Senate course may be regarded as presenting the

seventh through 12th hurdles.

 

Assuming this bill originated in the House, the bill now goes to the

Senate, where the same course is followed, from introduction, referral,

committee consideration, and floor action. If it passes, it almost certainly

will be with Senate amendments. That means the bill must be returned to

the House for concurrence, rejection, or modification of the Senate

amendments. Sometimes a conference committee may be appointed to

attempt to resolve differences between the two houses.

 

The Governor's veto is the 13th hurdle.

 

If the House and Senate finally agree upon the wording of the bill, it will be

certified to the Governor by the Speaker and Clerk of the House and the

President and Secretary of the Senate.

 

The Governor has seven days to veto the bill (actually, now an act) after

its presentation to him during a session except for the final seven days. If

during that period or on the seventh day the Legislature adjourns sine die

or takes a recess of more than 30 days, the Governor has 15 consecutive

days from the date of presentation. If the Governor fails to act, the act

becomes law. In the case of local bills, the Governor most likely will allow

these to become law without signature.

 

By providing specifically how the Governor shall proceed, the Constitution

prevents the Governor from allowing the pocket veto (allowing the bill to

simply set until the time limit after its presentation has passed, effectively

killing the bill) available to some Governors of other states and to the

President of the United States.

 

Overriding a veto may become the 14th and 15th hurdles.

 

Assuming the Governor has vetoed the act, it will be returned to the house

of origin by the Secretary of State. If the Legislature is still in session, the

bill may be acted upon but this is not mandatory. It can simply be

abandoned. If taken up, it requires two-thirds of the members present in

each house to override the veto. Should the Legislature not be in session,

the veto will be laid over to the next regular or special session. If not

considered then, the veto stands and the Legislature has lost its

opportunity for review.

 

 

 

 

Last Update - 4/27/96

 

Edited from Allen Morris' Florida Handbook. Copyright © 1993