State Legislative process

If changed, the bill is sent back to the chamber of origin
for approval or further consideration

Idea

Is there an issue in your community that you think lawmakers should address? Contact your state legislator with your suggestion. Legislators hear from many constituent groups about ideas for legislation.

Committee Hearing

Bills are sent to committee before consideration by the entire House or Senate. Legislators on the committee have time to reflect on the pros and cons of a proposal, work out compromises, and amend or rewrite bills more easily than in floor debate. Committee hearings are the public's opportunity to participate directly in the legislative process: Anyone may testify in person or in writing on a bill.

Floor Debate

Readings. “Reading” refers to a specific stage in the legislative process. First reading occurs when a bill is introduced. Second reading, in most chambers, takes place after a committee reports a bill to the body. Third reading occurs when the bill is up for a final vote.

Debating. Citizens expect legislators to carefully consider the issues brought before the “people’s branch of government.” During debate, members discuss the pros and cons of proposed legislation. Voting. In legislative bodies, there are three basic methods of voting: 1) The simplest is a voice vote; members respond en masse to a call of those in favor, followed by a call for those opposed. 2) A division vote is usually taken by asking those in favor of a question to rise and repeating the process for those opposed. 3) The only recorded votes are roll call votes, which require a yes or no response from each member and are recorded in the chamber's journal. In most states, a roll call vote is required on final passage of a bill.

Law

Governor Signs. The simplest part of the entire lawmaking process. If the governor signs the bill, the bill becomes law.

Veto

Governor Vetoes—End of Story? The legislature still has another move. If the governor vetoes a bill, the vetoed bill and the governor's message explaining why are returned to the chamber where the bill originated. The legislature can accept the governor's decision or override the governor's veto - the latter isn't easy.

Get Involved

The colors indicate when and how the public can affect legislation at different points in the legislative process above:

Website

All state legislatures have a website containing a wide array of information including session and committee schedules, how to find and contact your representative, how to tour the capitol and attend sessions, and legislation tracking and searches.

Letters

Is there an issue in your community that you think lawmakers should address? Contact your state legislator with your suggestion. Legislators hear from many constituent groups about ideas for legislation.

Sample letter to state senator.

Social Media

Most legislatures, party caucuses and legislators have social media accounts they use to stay connected with their constituents and community.

Phone calls

Sometimes the extra effort of picking up the phone and calling your legislator’s office can make an impact. You might speak directly with your legislator or an aide in the office, or at least leave a message or voicemail. Lawmakers will do their best to reply in a timely manner.

Why You Should Call, Not Email, Your Legislators.

The New York Times article

Town halls

A town hall meeting allows community members to ask questions and share concerns with their legislators and other public officials. Preparedness and civility are key when participating in a town hall.

Reasons and how to attend a town hall.

Testimony

Do you have expertise or personal experience relevant to legislators making decisions about a piece of legislation? Most state legislatures offer the opportunity t"o testify – in person or sometimes remotely – during committee hearings.

Visit Washington State Legislature.