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
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
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