cpogovlogo2.gif - 3414 Bytes How a bill becomes a law
(Or Civics 101) but something we need to know!

1. The Bill Is Introduced
.. The presiding officer calls for the introduction of bills.
Bills also may be pre-filed.
.. The representative introduces the bill
.. The bill is assigned a number and read the first time.

2. The Bill Goes to Committee
.. The bill is read a second time and sent to committee.
.. The committee holds hearings.
.. The committee votes: a) do pass, b) do not pass, c) without recommendations, d) do pass with amendment, e) draft a substitute bill and return it to the House or f) it takes no action. When a bill is reported "do pass" or "without recommendation" it is placed on the calendar.

3. The House Votes
.. On perfection, debate takes place. Committee members all have the right to make speeches and offer amendments. At this time a bill may be a) postponed, b) passed, c) defeated, d) amended and passed, e) amended and defeats or f) tabled and postponed indefinitely.
.. To perfect a bill a majority vote of those present and voting is required, a quorum being present.

4. Debate on the Bill
..Third reading and final passage by the House.
The bill is not subject to amendment at this point.

5. The Bill Goes to the Senate
.. The bill goes to the Senate for first reading.
.. Second reading and referral to Senate committee.
.. Senate committee holds public hearings. (Be there if you can!)
.. The Senate committee reports on the bill.
(Process in step 2 is repeated.)
.. Third reading and final passage of the Senate.
.. Conference committee irons out House and Senate differences.

6. The Bill Goes to the Governor
.. Speaker of the House and President of the Senate sign bill.
.. The bill goes to the governor for his consideration and signature.
The governor has 15 days to consider a bill and then returns it to the house of its origin with his approval or objections. If the bill is approved, it becomes state law.


If you've ever wondered if writing to legislators is worth the trouble, the answer is a resounding YES!

Content: Rule number one when writing a legislator is to write your legislator. As a constituent, you carry more clout than any other concerned citizen.

Limit your comments to one issue, and be as specific as possible. List the bill's title, popular name and sponsor. Don't write a legislator urging him to support his own bill. That's just a waste of time and it's insulting.

Style: How an opinion is phrased can be as important as what is said. Keep the tone of your letter courteous and professional. Legislators want your opinion, but threatening of emotional language can do your cause more harm than good.

If you are authorized to speak for a group, use the organization's stationary, otherwise write on plain or personal stationary. Avoid form letters or mimeographed materials. Let your legislator know you can think for yourself.

All legislators are addressed as "The Honorable" on the envelope and inside address. In the salutation or greeting, all representatives are "Dear Representative" and senators are "Dear Senator". Use your legislator's full name, spelled correctly. (Your county courthouse can supply you with a list of the names, addresses, and political affiliation.)

Timing: Send your message early, preferably before a bill is out of committee.

Follow up: Don't just write once if you have a concern. Your second correspondence might be a note of appreciation or a letter concerning another bill. A constant barrage of communication is ill-advised. Six or more letters each session will put you in the "constant correspondent" category. One thoughtful, well written letter on an important issue, plus a note of thanks for a favorable vote will make you an effective grassroots lobbyist. While this may seem elementary, it is the kind of thing that probably didn't seem at all important when it was covered in class.

These notes are taken from a presentation made to an eighth grade class. Since it's been a long time since we've been in eighth grade, I thought that a refresher might be good for us. We do need to stay in touch with those who represent us in the legislature. They, in turn, appreciate our input. If we don't contribute, do we have a right to complain after the fact?

For names and addressed of your representatives, call the local library, your county courthouse, or go to any city hall. (You can also get the information you need in the Government Section of ComPortOne!) All sources should be able to provide you with the appropriate names, addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers that you should use.

Remember, if it is in writing, it carries more weight.
One hand written note is worth 1000 copied sheets all alike!

Written by:
JoAnn Lawson c/o Metro-East Landlords Update
PO Box 122 Columbia IL

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