The Legislative Process Pages
The Course of Bills in Becoming Law
Timeline for Floor Amendments (Adobe Acrobate .pdf)
State constitutions and legislative rules provide for a lengthy and complex process
to provide ample opportunity for consideration of pending measures and afford time
to achieve consensus. This is certainly the case with the Oklahoma legislative process.
The principal stages that a bill (including here a bill or joint resolution) passes
through before it can be enacted are described below (also in the “path of a new
law” chart at the end of this chapter):
Every bill shall be read on three different days in each House, and no bill shall
become a law unless, on its final passage, it be read at length, and no law shall
be passed unless upon a vote of a majority of all the members elected to each house
in favor of such law; and the question, upon final passage, shall be taken upon
its last reading, and the yeas and nays shall be entered upon the journal.” [Article
V, Section 34, Oklahoma Constitution]
- 1. Research and study of an issue.
- 2. Request for bill drafting by legal staff and author.
- 3. Filing and Introduction of the measure by the author. (For House measures, they
can be “predesignated” by the Speaker before bills are first read to standing committees
where they can be studied and amendments prepared. Official action must await official
assignment of the bill by the Speaker after Second Reading.)
- 4. First Reading. The First Reading is by title only
- 5. Second Reading. As in the First Reading, Second Reading is only by title unless
otherwise ordered by the House (normally only the bill number is read before it
is assigned.) At the time the bill is read for the second time, the Speaker usually
assigns it to committee(s). Occasionally, the bill will be assigned directly to
the calendar where it could be considered the next legislative day.
- 6. Committee(s) consideration.
- 7. Report from committee(s), with recommendations.
- 8. Printing of the bill and placing on the general order or consent calendar.
- 9. Floor explanation.
- 10. Floor amendments, unless the bill was assigned to the consent calendar.
- 11. Floor debate, unless the bill was assigned to the consent calendar.
- 12. Third reading of the bill.
- 13. Floor vote(s).
- 14. Engrossing of the bill.
- 15. Transmittal of the bill to the second house where the bill goes through steps
At this stage, it is entirely possible that a bill could be ready for enrollment
by the house of origin if, and only if, the second house made no amendments to the
bill that was transmitted as the “engrossed bill” from the original house and the
bill’s title and enacting or resolving clause are present. That is not usually the
case, but if it were, the bill is enrolled and presented to the Governor for the
Governor’s signature or veto. If not, the following steps may occur:
- 16. Consideration by the first house of all “engrossed amendments” by the second
The motion in order at this point is whether or not to accept or reject those engrossed
amendments. If they are accepted, a vote takes place on Fourth Reading, the bill
is enrolled and presented to the Governor. If the engrossed amendments are rejected:
- 17. Conference is requested by the house of origin and members appointed by the
presiding officer of the house of origin.
- 18. Conference may be granted and members appointed by the presiding officer of
the opposite house.
- 19. Conference committee report is filed in the original house.
- 20. Conference committee report is adopted or rejected in the original house. If
rejected, the measure returns to conference for further work. The same conferees
(or new ones) can be appointed.
- 21. Conference report in the opposite house is considered as in Step 20.
- 22. Fourth Reading in both houses.
- 23. Enrollment in the house of origin and signatures of presiding officers in both
- 24. Presentment of the bill to the Governor (not required for concurrent or simple
resolutions which are filed with the Secretary of State or proposed amendments to
the Oklahoma Constitution by a legislative referendum).
- 25. Reconsideration by the house of origin first and then the opposite house if
- 26. Publication and printing of the resolution or act after a concurrent or simple
resolution is filed or a bill or joint resolution is signed or a veto overridden.
Note that some measures must be approved by the people before actually becoming
law. This is the case for legislative referenda and revenue measures which fail
to receive the necessary super-majority approval from both houses to avoid the constitutional
requirement that they be approved at the next general election.
Preparing a Bill
For the most part, state legislatures operate on what might be called “the author
system” for the making of law. Only members of the Oklahoma Legislature can introduce
legislation. Not even governors can introduce legislation in the Oklahoma Legislature;
they may have their budgets and major program initiatives drafted into bill form
for introduction, but the bills must have legislative sponsors before they can be
introduced. The decision on authorship, particularly if an outside group is requesting
a measure, is crucial to the success of a bill.
Legislative Production: Measures and Joint Resolutions
Introduced and Enacted*
While members are engaged in so many other activities, it is the legislating process
of promulgating new law that members are most involved in during the session. Over
3,000 measures may be introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature during a two-year legislative
term. This compares with over 30,000 in the New York, 14,000 in the Massachusetts
and 5,000 in the Texas legislatures, respectively. According to The Book of the
States, 1997-98, there were 20 states that had more introduced bills (excludes all
forms of resolutions) in their legislatures for the 1996-97 regular sessions than
Oklahoma’s 3,601. Nonetheless, the consideration of 3,000 or more measures is a
time-consuming matter. The chart on this page provides historical data for recent
sessions on bills introduced and enacted.
So, how does a lawmaker go about introducing a bill? Most charts on the legislative
process will identify the filing of a bill as the initial step in the course of
a bill in the Legislature. A few will start with the bill drafting. Ideally, the
introduction of legislation should follow a thorough examination of the subject
that the bill will cover. There will be a number of outside parties interested in
members’ introducing legislation. These include administrative officials, constituents,
lobbyists, and various interest groups. In many cases, they will have draft bills
already prepared to present to members to see if they will introduce the legislation.
These measures are sometimes referred to as “request bills.”
All bill requests in the House of Representatives must be submitted to the Research,
Legal and Fiscal Divisions’ staff so that it can be assigned a bill request number.
Other bills come from a member’s committee work, staff research, or programs in
other states. Many bills are in response to federal legislation or federal agency
rules. In all cases, a legislator is wise to learn as much as possible about the
subject before a bill is introduced. Prior planning, research, and discussion enhances
the likelihood of the bill’s passage through clearer issue identification or compromise
efforts before the proposed measure is even introduced. In some cases, preliminary
research could persuade members that there is no need for the legislation or could
encourage them to avoid filing a bill that later could hurt a member with their
colleagues or in their district. Not infrequently, the member’s ultimate goals can
be achieved as a result of the bill research and bill drafting process itself and
without the introduction of the bill.
The narrative will assume that the bill is one sponsored by a House member.
Some possible questions that a member might ask before requesting a bill be drafted
or filing the bill after drafting are:
1. What problem is it that my legislation will solve?
2. Are there any other problems that my legislation will create?
3. What agencies, groups, or other parties need and will support my legislation?
4. How can I enlist the support of such outside groups? Which legislators will support
my legislation? Should I ask for their input?
5. Who will oppose my legislation? Are there any opportunities to compromise with
them in order to negate or neutralize their opposition? If so, should the compromises
be incorporated in the introduced bill or used as concessions to opposing parties?
6. Are there any constitutional problems associated with my legislation?
7. Can I clearly estimate the fiscal impacts of the bill to the state and affected
parties if there are any? Who will be expected to bear any associated costs or receive
benefits? Can I identify a funding source to pay the associated costs? Are there
associated benefits that might outweigh the costs?
8. Are the enforcement provisions of the bill clear enough? If passed, will the
parties responsible for the administration or enforcement of the law be likely and
able to do so?
9. Are there any potential unintended consequences of the bill that may be overlooked?
10. Is the language clear and the parts of the bill logical?
11. Am I willing to expend the time and energy to see this bill through the legislative
process? (Given the time constraints placed on members, some serious thought should
be directed to the time that certain bills will require to pass before a member
agrees to sponsor them.)
12. Are there other states that have attempted to act on the same issue? What alternative
approaches have they used? What reasons are there for or against these alternatives?
13. Should I consider dividing the legislation into several bills? Or would it be
advisable to pass the legislation over several years?
14. How will the other house respond to the legislation? Who would I want to be
the principal author in the Senate? Should I involve the potential author in the
A new concern for House members starting with the 1999 session is whether or not
the member is sufficiently interested in a proposed bill that the member is willing
to allocate one of the eight bill introductions each House member has per session
on this particular bill. If not, other alternatives might be considered such as
looking for another house author or trying to cooperate with another member who
is authoring compatible legislation.
These questions are not exhaustive, but they do point out the importance of careful
research before a bill is drafted or introduced. The staff of the House is always
available to assist members in discussing these questions.
Once the member has decided that a bill should be drafted, a bill request must be
presented to the House Legal Division where a bill request number is assigned and
the bill request is put into a bill form. These requests are treated as confidential
in nature, unless otherwise directed by the requestor, so members should provide
the legal staff with all pertinent information, such as research or letters, in
order that the staff drafting the bill can address the issues in the manner that
the member desires. Depending on the complexity of the bill, research and/or fiscal
staff may be involved in the preparation of legislation by either the author or
the bill drafter. It is not uncommon for an agency or an outside lobbying interest
to provide a legislator with draft language. Very often legislation could be so
technical in nature that such outside efforts are required. In some cases, the draft
language may be so well written that little or no rewriting will be required by
House bill drafters. Members requesting a bill will receive copies of bill drafts
in order for them to make any changes. No bill will be introduced until the member
is satisfied with its content. The exception is for bill requests in which the information
required for drafting is received by the staff too late to permit the author an
opportunity to make changes or bill drafts ready at the bill introduction deadline
which must be filed to avoid being filed late.
The staff is trained to draft members’ ideas into proper legal terminology, form,
and style. Bills must be coherent, concise, and free from ambiguity. Legal staff
will examine the measure’s content for possible constitutional problems and any
other legal difficulties. At that point, the legal staff will authorize it to be
prepared for filing. Staff from the House Bill Processing office will bring copies
of the bill for filing to the author’s office. The author then files it with the
House Chief Clerk’s office where the measure is assigned a number and prepared for
It should go without saying that bill requests should be made as soon as possible
so that bill drafters will have adequate time to draft bills before deadlines and
to allow for refinement. There are joint rules on requesting and introduction of
bills. There are also provisions for prefiling legislation that allow bills to be
filed and given a number before the beginning of each session. Due to the shortened
session, these deadlines have been moved forward so that requests must be taken
and bills filed before the session in order for them to be considered during the
subsequent regular session (see the chart on page 8).
House Bill Processing in the Legislative Services Bureau prepares the official bill
for introduction and makes enough copies of the bill for filing. In the House, a
bill is submitted to the Bill Clerk in the Chief Clerk’s office who numbers it and
assigns it to the Reading Clerk for introduction. Bills are assigned numbers according
to the order in which they were filed. House measures are numbered beginning with
1001, and the number stays with the bill through the end of that Legislature. Thus,
the first bill introduced in the House will be House Bill No. 1001. The numbering
system holds true for simple, concurrent, and joint resolutions introduced in the
House. Senate measures, however, start with the number “1.”
Starting with the 1999 session, the Oklahoma House of Representatives has imposed
on itself a rule limiting the number of House bills and joint resolutions that can
be introduced by members. Rule 8, Section 2(b) limits to eight the number of House
bills or joint resolutions that members may introduce as principal author in any
session (including special sessions). Exceptions are made for measures containing
appropriations matters filed by the chair of the House Appropriations and Budget
Committee, duplicate section bills, sunset measures, reapportionment bills, measures
disapproving or approving agency rules, and measures authorized by the Speaker.
The implementation of this rule will require House members to more closely manage
their bill requests so that they do not find themselves unable to introduce what
they consider the most important measures that they have requested.
Each bill contains the names of its legislative sponsors and a title explaining
its provisions. The title always begins with the phrase “An Act relating to . .
. .” This is because Article V, Section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution requires
that every act, with certain exceptions such as general appropriation bills, shall
embrace one subject. It is very important that the title is complete since the courts
may invalidate provisions not included in the title when it becomes law. The staff
is trained to write complete titles.
With the shortened sessions and tight legislative deadlines, the majority of the
House bills introduced in the House of Representatives are prefiled. Joint rules
establish the final day for requesting legislation for the joint deadlines for the
1999 and 2000 sessions are found on page 8.
The early introduction of bills has enabled the House of Representatives to make
good use of the practice of “predesignating” bills. Rule 10, Section 13 of the House
rules gives the Speaker the authority to “designate the intended committee assignment”
of prefiled bills in the House of Representatives to committees. The committees
can then hold hearings and prepare to act on legislation in advance of the actual
referral of legislation that will occur when the Legislature reconvenes in February.
No formal actions on such legislation can occur until after the legislation has
been actually referred to a committee following Second Reading.
First reading is a perfunctory step, required by the Oklahoma Constitution, largely
for information. The bill will be “read” during the first floor session, excluding
the organizational session at the beginning of each new Legislature, after a measure
is filed by title only and published in the House Journal. The bill is not actually
read, but it is listed in the House Journal for the public to learn of its existence.
The public, particularly the administration and lobbyists, closely reviews the bills
after First Reading so that they can track those that concern them.
Second Reading is also brief, usually only involving the bill number, unless otherwise
ordered by the Speaker. By constitution, Second Reading occurs on the legislative
day following First Reading. It is after Second Reading that the Speaker or presiding
officer assigns the measure to committee(s). The presiding officer announces the
assignment immediately after the reading clerk performs the Second Reading. In rare
cases, the measure can be advanced to the calendar for Third Reading and thereby
be excluded entirely from the committee process in that house.
First and Second Reading in both houses must take place on consecutive legislative
days. It takes at least five legislative days to pass a bill or joint resolution,
assuming that Third Reading in the house of origin and First Reading in the second
house take place on the third day.
Committee Assignment and Consideration
Committee assignment and committee consideration are the first major checkpoints
that a bill must pass before it can become law. This step can be bypassed in rare
situations by the Speaker assigning the bill to the calendar for floor consideration.
The committee assignments by the Speaker may indeed be vital. A committee hostile
to the subject of a measure is likely to block the bill’s passage or cripple it
in some manner in order to weaken its impact or reduce its chance of passage on
the floor. The committee system is designed to also screen out legislation that
is, in the committee’s judgment, unnecessary or not ready for passage. It is not
uncommon for several bills on the same subject to be assigned to a committee. In
such cases, the committee may decide to leave some of those bills in committee.
The effective screening of such legislation enables the Legislature to focus its
attention on legislation felt to have greater merit or urgency. Frequently, a bill
will have great merit but would so radically change the law that further study is
required by the committee during an interim. Many major reforms can take several
years to pass.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
State Of Oklahoma
I move to amend Committee Substitute for House (BILL)
of the printed Bill
Page 3 Section 3 Line 27 and 28
of the Engrossed Bill
by striking all language after the word "Director" on line 27 through the word "member"
on line 28 and by inserting in lieu thereof the words "of State Finance or his designee"
AMEND TITLE TO CONFORM TO AMENDMENTS
Amendment submitted by: Jane Doe
Committees are the heart of the legislative process. In all cases, standing committees
will bring their expertise and policy perspectives to bear on bills before they
are passed. Most committees are created to examine issues on a given subject matter.
Members of these committees specialize within that subject matter, providing the
opportunity for a bill to be strengthened by committee action. Frequently, a bill
will gain support from committee members, some of whom will decide to act as coauthors
to demonstrate their support to the floor and the opposite house.
The committees schedule meetings and agendas to receive public testimony on bills
in their committees, make amendments, and vote on the measures. Committee hearings
may provide the public its only opportunity to formally provide its opinion on legislation.
Although legislative meetings are not subject to the provisions of the Open Meeting
Act, the rules of the House and Senate support the holding of open meetings. Rule
10, Section 3 (a) states: “All votes in standing or special committees on bills
or resolutions, or amendments thereto, shall be conducted in open public meetings
of said committee, except that the chair and two-thirds (2/3) of the other members
of any standing or special committee, including ex officio members (Speaker and
Speaker Pro Tempore), may report a bill or resolution out of committee by signing
a written report.” Subsection (b) goes on to add that “after a voice vote on any
motion in a committee, any member of the committee shall be granted, upon request,
a division, that would be by a rising vote or by counting hands.”
During the 1996 session, the House added a new paragraph (c) to Rule 10, Section
3 regarding recorded votes in House standing committees on final action on a bill.
The new provision states:
At the request of any member of a committee, the vote on a recommendation for final
passage out of a committee to the House of Representatives concerning a bill or
joint resolution shall be by roll call and shall require a majority vote of a quorum
of the members of the committee for passage. As used in this paragraph, “recommendation
for final passage out of committee” means a “do pass,” “do pass as amended” or “do
not pass” motion.
Note that this provision: (1) does not require recorded votes on all final passage
motions; and (2) does not require a recorded vote on “report progress” motions.
For determination of a committee quorum, the Speaker or the Speaker Pro Tempore
count towards the quorum but are not added to the committee’s membership for determining
the number required for the quorum. Finally, it is possible that a committee can
lose its quorum during a meeting. If that occurs and a member of the committee challenges
the presence of a quorum (one-half of the members plus one), then the committee
cannot take any further final action votes subject to this paragraph until the quorum
Customarily, the principal author of the bill will be at the meeting to explain
and defend the bill. The author may also have amendments or even a proposed committee
substitute. Committee substitutes are common in the Oklahoma Legislature. They are
proposed substitutes for the measure referred to the committee until adopted as
a “working draft” by the committee and passed with amendments to the proposed committee
substitute incorporated. The measure’s author, if not a member of the committee,
must obtain a committee member to author the proposed substitute or any amendments,
or amendments can be adopted by unanimous consent or, if controversial, by vote
of the committee. Committee members will often have their own amendments to the
measure that the author may either endorse or oppose. Amendments are normally prepared
on proper House amendment forms (see page 46 for an amendment sample), but some
are presented verbally. It is important to understand that at this stage, the measure
is the property of the committee, not the author; and therefore, it is the committee’s
intentions that will prevail.
The bill may be debated thoroughly in committee if there is discussion about its
passage. If a committee decides to report a bill favorably out of committee, it
will do so on a “do pass,” “do pass as amended,” or “do pass on the committee substitute”
motion. A “do not pass” motion will also release a bill from committee, if there
is an accompanying minority report filed within one legislative day of the majority
report (see Rule 10, Section 5 regarding minority reports). The “do not pass” motion
is rarely used since it could enable the bill to advance to the floor where it can
be approved. For that reason, a “report progress” motion is used to designate committee
opposition and retain the committee’s control of the measure. It is common for committee
members to make requests of a member during a committee meeting that will not result
in any committee action but will require further work of the author. If the author
promises to consider such requests, the author would be well-advised to follow through.
House rules require measures to have a complete title and enacting or resolving
clauses when passed by committees, except for the Appropriations and Budget Committee.
Should the measure have been amended, the committee will frequently direct the staff
to prepare a committee substitute incorporating the amendments.
If the committee or the Speaker wishes, the measure can be placed on the consent
calendar (see House Rule 10, Section 9) which will prevent floor debate or amendment
on the measure. According to House rules, a bill on the consent calendar can, however,
be removed by any member who moves to have it removed during open session during
the four legislative days that a bill on the consent calendar must spend before
it can be considered on the floor. For that reason, the consent calendar is not
often used or, when used, it is removed from that calendar and placed on general
order before being called up from the consent calendar.
A committee report, incorporating any amendments, will be prepared and filed by
the committee secretary for the committee chair if the bill passes. That report
is filed in the Chief Clerk’s office and contains all committee amendments. These
amendments are incorporated in the printed bill that will be used on the floor.
For more information on rules governing committee meetings, see Rule 10 of the House
In recent years, as noted earlier, the House of Representatives has reformed its
procedures to cope with the Legislature’s shorter sessions and larger workload by
employing a system for “predesignating” prefiled measures. After November 15 in
even-numbered years and during the interim in odd-numbered years, members will prefile
legislation for the session. House Rule 10, Section 13, permits the Speaker to “designate
the intended committee assignment” for such measures during the interim. Committees
are encouraged to hold hearings and consider amendments prior to the measure actually
being assigned to them. Formal action, in terms of filing reports and amending bills,
waits until the measure is assigned after Second Reading, but the predesignation
system can accelerate the work of the House of Representatives in its consideration
of prefiled bills.
As a result, interim work of standing committees on legislation has increased. Several
changes in rules have been passed in recent years to safeguard that members will
be provided ample opportunity to participate in interim meetings. Rule 10, Section
14 prohibits House committees from taking final action without a quorum during the
interim. Written meeting notices for committee meetings must be mailed at least
seven days before a meeting during the interim. This provision will not apply to
meetings in the odd years following the organizational half-day session in January.
The seven-day requirement does not apply to a committee or subcommittee meeting
on an interim study assigned by the Speaker for joint study.
Floor Consideration and Third Reading
After the committee makes its report to the House, the bill with all amendments
is printed for consideration on the floor of the House, and the bill is advanced
on the calendar to “general order.” The Majority Floor Leader’s office prepares
the session agenda and notifies the authors that their bills will be called up by
the presiding officer. Bills, except those containing appropriation matters, must
be on general order and must be taken up within 15 legislative days, after which
they return to committee. Measures on the consent calendar are scheduled on the
fifth legislative day.
Very often, bill summaries or other supplementary materials for floor consideration
are coordinated by the authors. Members can have materials passed out on the floor,
but the materials must indicate the member responsible for distribution. The public
cannot circulate information to be placed on the floor. It can distribute information
to the members’ post office boxes, however, by presenting it to the Speaker Pro
Many states require fiscal notes to accompany legislation. With one notable exception,
Oklahoma does not have a formal fiscal note requirement. House Rule 12, Section
4 prohibits any measure affecting retirement systems from being considered on Third
or Fourth Reading without a cost estimate prepared by the actuary of the Legislative
Services Bureau being furnished to the members. Though fiscal notes are not formally
required, House fiscal staff do prepare fiscal notes on measures affecting appropriations,
and members must be prepared to explain the costs of their legislation. Concerns
on the fiscal or economic impacts of a measure can lead to its defeat, regardless
of its merits.
When the presiding officer decides that a measure is ready to be discussed, the
principal author will be recognized for the explanation of the bill. By rule, the
explanation cannot include a discussion of the merits of the bill. For appropriation
bills, the chair or another member of the subcommittee that handled the bill will
often offer the explanation.
House rules make all bills and joint resolutions on general order subject to amendment
and debate; those from the consent calendar cannot be amended or debated. Suspension
of the rule can prevent amendment of bills, but that is rarely done since it would
require a two-thirds vote. More commonly, a member will move to advance the measure
which, if approved, will cut off any further amendments. Amendments must be prepared
on separate pieces of paper (amendment forms are available) and must be submitted
to the clerk at the front of the House Chamber. A motion to lay an amendment on
the table (popularly called tabling motion) or to advance the bill can be offered
at this point. If successful, this motion would defeat the amendment. In addition,
a member can ask for the vote on any amendment to be reconsidered, but that motion
is debatable. Votes on amendments, if a division is requested, are conducted on
an electronic roll call. Red signals opposition and green support. A member can
change a vote up to the point that the presiding officer closes the vote. The rules
also allow a motion to send a bill back to committee.
Before debate on the bill itself, the presiding officer will advance the bill to
Third Reading for a vote. House rules indicate that engrossment occurs before Third
Reading, but in practice, the presiding officer will indicate that the measure is
considered engrossed; once a measure is passed on Third Reading, it will be actually
engrossed. Debate on a measure will precede the final vote on the measure. Filibusters
on a measure are not permissible in the House of Representatives as they are in
the State Senate. Debate, by House rules, is limited to one hour divided equally
between the proponents and opponents. Five minutes of the proponents’ time is allocated
to the principal author who will close the debate. The presiding officer will request
all those wishing to debate to indicate their intent to do so by show of hands.
The presiding officer will list those in support and in opposition to the measure.
Members can then yield their time to another member who shares the same position
on the measure. The presiding officer will alternate recognition for debate between
those in support and those in opposition to the measure. Members may yield to other
members for questions if they wish, but that time expended for the question and
answer will count against their allotted time. By the same token, a member can refuse
to yield for questions. In all cases, the supporters of the measure, normally represented
by the author, speak last.
Once the debate is closed, the presiding officer will declare the vote. The vote
is recorded on the electronic roll call, and members can change their vote until
the presiding officer closes the vote. House rules require each vote on final passage
to be held open for at least two minutes or a shorter period if the presiding officer
determines all members recorded as present have voted. Fifty-one votes in the House
of Representatives are required for a bill to pass. Another vote is required if
the bill contains an emergency clause (or a special election provision for a legislative
referendum) that would make the bill effective upon signature of the Governor. That
vote requires the approval of 68 members. The emergency clause requires a separate
vote. This may not actually occur, unless there are objections, when the bill passes
with the two-thirds majority. If the emergency should fail, the bill will advance
but without the emergency clause. Bills without emergencies cannot take effect until
after 90 days following sine die adjournment of the Legislature and may be subject
to a popular referendum to reject all or part of the bill. Revenue bills are not
subject to the emergency. Unless they receive a three-fourths majority in both houses
(76 in the House of Representatives and 37 in the Senate), they must be approved
by a popular vote at the next general election. Note that the vote requirements
are not dependent on the number of members present or currently elected, but to
the number of members who constitute the respective chamber.
At this stage, there are several parliamentary motions that can occur. A rare tool
is “the call of the house.” On critical bills where the number of votes needed on
a measure or the emergency cannot be obtained from the members present, House Rule
17 enables any member, seconded by fifteen members, or the Speaker, seconded by
five members, to initiate a “call of the house.” This rare tactic can be applied
to compel absent members to appear and keep members present in the chamber. A more
frequent parliamentary move involves the serving of notice to reconsider the vote
on the measure or the emergency clause (Rule 20). An author or another member will
serve notice that they intend to ask for reconsideration of the vote. This notice
must be served prior to any other business. This parliamentary action holds the
measure for three legislative days. The actual motion to reconsider requires 51
votes to pass. This tactic allows the party wanting reconsideration time to change
the outcome of the vote in question. The serving of notice action is not in order
during the final days of a session, but a motion to reconsider a final vote is,
if done before any further action is considered. For more on this matter, the member
should read carefully the language in the House rules on the subject.
During the vote on Third Reading, House Rule 14, Section 2 states that members cannot
be recognized for any other business. Members cannot visit or remain by the clerk’s
desk. Section 1 provides that members are not allowed to vote for other members,
except for the presiding officer or the Speaker when the Speaker is not presiding.
Private conversations are prohibited during the vote.
House Rule 14 is very specific about procedures regarding floor voting. Significant
safeguards are taken in the rules to guarantee the integrity of the House in its
voting methods. The vote on final passage will be announced to give members the
opportunity to vote. The roll is held open at least two minutes unless the presiding
officer determines all members present have voted. When a vote is announced, a loud
ring sounds throughout the House and pages are dispatched to announce the vote so
that members have an opportunity to vote. Once the voting device is activated to
record the vote, no vote may be changed.
Such votes become a matter of record and are published in the House Journal. This
is very important because members’ votes will be utilized in a variety of ways to
judge their performance. A poorly advised vote cast by a member can cause difficulty
for a member in campaigning for future office.
Several points are worth making at this point. There are important differences between
the rules of the House of Representatives and State Senate that can become very
important in the work of the Legislature. For example, House Rule 8, Section 9,
contains a provision unique to the House of Representatives that prevents it from
considering, during the remainder of that Legislature, a bill or joint resolution
containing an issue that has already been defeated on Third or Fourth Reading. Often
termed “final action,” not only is the particular measure defeated, no other measure
“having the same effect and covering the same specific matters” can be considered
in the House during the rest of that legislative term. Should this occur, authors
will almost always notify the House of their intention to move for a reconsideration
of the vote as described above.
The House has a rule (Rule 3, Section 2(b)) preventing House consideration of “shucked
bills.” This means that if a bill contains matters not germane to it when it was
filed in the House, it cannot be considered during that Legislature. The presiding
officer enforces this provision. Joint Rule 10(d) prohibits consideration of nongermane
matters by a conference committee.
If the measure does pass, the measure and all amendments are delivered to the House
Office of Engrossing and Enrolling for engrossment. All amendments are incorporated
into the engrossed bill which will be forwarded to the presiding officer for signature
in open session. The House Office of Engrossing and Enrolling is empowered by House
rules to correct certain “scrivener’s” errors such as misspelled or repeated words.
Consideration by the Second House
After the bill passes the House of Representatives and is in proper order with the
signatures, it will go through a similar process in the Senate. It is extremely
important that the author of the bill has obtained an author in the other house
before this point. The author has control over the authors from the opposite house
so long as the bill is in control of the house of origin. After the house of origin
releases the measure, a hostile author can gain control of the bill in the opposite
house and thereby jeopardize the passage of the measure or substantially alter the
Communication and cooperation with the author and leaders in the opposite house
and outside interested parties as the bill goes through the opposite house are critical.
In some cases, the original author can advise lawmakers in the opposite house how
proposed changes will affect the chances of a measure passing. If the bill is amended
in any way by the opposite house, the amendments will be engrossed and returned
to the house of origin along with the engrossed bill for consideration. The principal
author will be recognized to make recommendations as to whether or not the house
of origin should concur in the amendments or reject them and request conference.
It is common practice for the title of the measure to be struck (crippled) in Senate
committees, the House Committee on Appropriations and Budget, or on either floor
of the house of origin so that the house of origin will maintain control or the
measure will be guaranteed to go to conference. In other words, the opposite house
will receive a “crippled bill” that cannot become law unless the title is restored.
Restoration of the title is an amendment which will restore the original house’s
control over the measure.
After Passage by the Senate
After a House measure is passed by the Senate, a number of actions can occur after
the Senate returns the measure to the House of Representatives. If there were no
amendments and the bill is ready to be sent to the Governor for consideration, the
measure is simply signed by the presiding officer, enrolled by the House’s Engrossing
and Enrolling Office, and sent to the Governor.
If there were any Senate amendments, they will be submitted to the House as engrossed
amendments along with the engrossed House measure. The House author may decide that
the amendments are acceptable and that the bill has a proper title; then the author
may move to have the House accept Senate amendments. A vote then would occur on
Fourth Reading with the same requirements as Third Reading. If there are sufficient
votes, the measure will be enrolled and prepared to send to the Governor.
If the House of Representatives refuses to concur with the engrossed amendments
of the Senate, conference may be requested. The request for conference and the members
that the house of origin wishes to appoint to conference are communicated to the
opposite house in the form of a message. The granting of conference is not automatic
under joint rules. In some cases, conference will be denied or delayed until both
houses approve the request. Conference committees are designed to resolve differences
between the two houses on a measure.
Joint rules also state that a conference committee on a measure will include three
members from each house, unless otherwise specified by the House Speaker or the
President Pro Tempore of the Senate. They appoint the members of conference committees
from their respective bodies. The principal authors of the bill frequently are included
on the conference committee. However, the appointment of the members of a conference
committee is crucial to the fate of the bill. The first-named conferee of the house
of origin serves as the conference committee chair and schedules the meetings of
the committee. Conference committees are staffed by House and Senate staff. Rules
provide that the conference committee cannot conduct business unless a quorum is
present. Any committee member may request a roll call of the conference committee
to determine the presence of a quorum. In practice, conference committees may never
formally meet, but the measure will be signed out of committee by circulating a
The appointment of persons with different ideas than the principal authors on the
measure can result in the bill being held in conference or substantial revision
of the bill in order for the bill to be reported out of conference. In some cases,
opposition from conferees of one or both chambers can be so strong that the bill
will not be reported out favorably. As noted above, joint rules provide that the
conference committee may only consider matters in disagreement between the two houses
or matters germane to the measure. If other issues are added to the measure, such
matters can be questioned as to their germaneness in the conference committee or
on the floor of either house where the presiding officer under joint rules can determine
if the rules have been violated. Should that be the case, the bill may be returned
When a bill is referred to a conference committee, it may be accompanied by “instructions”
from either house to its conferees regarding what should be in the report. House
Rule 22, Section 3(b) provides that instructions can be made only during the consideration
of a measure (instructions also can be added if a measure is rereferred to committee
from the House floor) or conference committee report. These instructions tie the
hands of the conferees from the house that adopted the instructions. If the conferees
cannot accept the instructions, the conferees must attempt to get the instructions
removed or altered so that the conference committee can write its report.
A conference committee must act on the engrossed amendments by accepting or rejecting
each engrossed amendment from the second house in the committee’s report. The action
of the conference committee is reflected in the conference committee report. The
report may be one page, containing information about the committee’s decision on
the engrossed amendments and/or conference amendments. Very often the report will
reject all amendments and include an attached conference committee substitute. The
conference committee report must be signed by a majority of the conferees of each
house before the measure can be reported from conference. The report is prepared
by the staff of the committee or the conference committee chair’s secretary and
submitted to the clerk’s office of the house of origin.
A conference committee report cannot be amended or altered in any way by either
house. The report first goes to the house of origin where it may be accepted or
rejected. Adoption of the report only requires a majority of members voting. If
the report is rejected, another conference may be requested. Occasionally, new members
may be appointed. If the report is approved in the house of origin, a vote on the
final passage of the bill occurs once again. Debate on the bill is allowed at this
stage (Fourth Reading), but no amendments are allowed. Debate rules are the same
as on Third Reading. Just as on Third Reading, the vote will be on the bill and
another vote, if necessary, on the emergency. It is possible that the measure can
pass, but not the emergency, thereby forcing the opposite house to decide whether
or not to approve the measure without the emergency or to reject the report and
send the bill for further conference. The opposite house will have the opportunity
to adopt or reject the report unless the house of origin rejects the report or the
If additional conference is required as described above, the next product of the
conference process will be reflected as a “second conference report.” It is common
for a measure to be considered several times by conference committees and that several
conference reports and conference substitutes will be prepared.
In the case that no compromise or agreement is reached, the measure will “die” in
that conference committee after sine die adjournment of either session of a Legislature.
Thus, it is very important that any such measures in the first regular session of
a Legislature be reported out of conference indicating that no agreement has been
reached. Section 8 of Rule 8 of House rules states that bills still in conference
at the end of a session of the Legislature cannot be carried over from the first
to the second session of the Legislature.
Due to the short session, the Legislature has tried several methods for expediting
the consideration of bills by conference committees. From 1990 through 1997, conference
committees, except those considering appropriation matters, had to file their reports
by May 1. If a measure was sent back to conference, it had only two legislative
days to file the next report. In no case, except for measures assigned to the General
Conference Committee on Appropriations (GCCA), could a conference committee have
more than twelve legislative days after conference is granted to file its report,
unless a four-legislative-day extension is granted by the house of origin. Fourth
Reading of appropriation bills had to occur by a date certain. This system was effective
for several years, but it became apparent by 1998 that compliance with the spirit
of these deadlines was eroding and they unduly added to the paperwork burdens of
the Legislature. The conference deadlines were scrapped in 1998 for a single deadline
(see page 8) by which all measures going to conference had to have been acted upon
by the principal author in the house of origin rejecting the engrossed amendments
(amendments of the opposite house).
There are several major conference committees that the Legislature formally utilizes
each session. For appropriation bills, the Oklahoma Legislature uses the GCCA, divided
into subcommittees, to bring into final form and balance the state’s budget. This
conference committee is much larger than most conference committees. As many as
50 or more members from the two houses will serve as members or alternates to GCCA.
In recent years, the Senate has appointed all 48 of its members to the GCCA. The
Legislature also utilizes a conference committee for retirement laws. Other conference
committees will be created to review measures on a particular subject in order to
combine those bills or to hammer out a consistent program on the subject.
Joint Rule 13 provides that appropriations bills are to take precedence over all
other bills in the Legislature. In fact, the Legislature will strive to pass the
budget bills at least five days before sine die adjournment each year. This ensures
that the Governor will be unable to use the pocket veto and that the Legislature
will have an opportunity to override any vetoes to those budget bills.
Enrollment of a bill or resolution simply means that it is prepared so as to include
all alterations to which both houses have agreed following final passage by both
houses and is performed by the Office of Engrossing and Enrolling of the house in
which the measure originated.
Transmittal to the Governor
Once the House bill is enrolled, it is then signed by the Speaker. It also will
be sent back in the Senate where it is then signed by the Senate’s presiding officer.
It is then returned to the House and, upon order of the Speaker, is transmitted
to the Governor.
Timing for this stage is important as it affects the time the Governor has to consider
the bill and whether it is subject to a pocket veto. In recent regular sessions,
the Legislature works to have appropriation bills and other controversial bills
finished and submitted by the next to last Friday in May. This permits a veto override
Consideration by the Governor
As with the federal and most state constitutions, the Oklahoma Constitution provides
for the presentment of all bills to the Governor before they become
law. In simple terms, the Governor has the opportunity to review all such bills
after they have been enrolled. The presentment clause only applies to bills and
those joint resolutions that will not result in legislative referenda. Simple and
concurrent resolutions, which do not have the full force and effect of law but express
the opinion of one or both houses respectively, are not subject to the presentment
provision. Instead, they are forwarded to the Secretary of State with directions
for distribution (which is the responsibility of the principal author in the house
of origin). Joint resolutions providing for a legislative referendum to the people
are exempt from the presentment provision since they are enacted into law by a vote
of the people.
At this stage, one of several options is available to the Governor. Those are:
1. Sign the bill within a period of five days (Sundays excepted);
2. Allow the bill to become law without the Governor’s signature, while the Legislature
is in session, by holding it beyond the five-day period;
3. Veto the entire bill (package veto) within the five-day period (Sundays excepted)
and return the bill to the house of origin with a message giving the reasons for
the veto; or
4. Sign the bill with line-item vetoes in the case of appropriation bills.
5. In the case where the Legislature adjourns sine die before the five-day period
expires, the Governor can take up to fifteen days following adjournment (including
Sundays) to either sign the measure or exercise the “pocket veto” provision allowed
in the constitution. This power to “pocket veto” bills at the end of the session
enables those measures that the Governor objects to becoming law to be vetoed by
simply refusing to sign them. No reasons for the veto are required, and no override
Article VI, Section 12 of the constitution also makes provision for the Governor’s
line-item veto powers on appropriation measures. All bills passed by the Legislature
“making appropriations of money embracing distinct items” are subject to the line-item
veto powers of the Governor. Unlike nonappropriation measures in which the veto
is on the entire measure, governors can be selective of what items they will veto
in an appropriations bill. The remainder of the measure can, unless the Legislature
overrides, become law. The line-item veto provision has, based on a State Supreme
Court action, also embraced substantive language in the appropriations bill, particularly
when that language relates to the vetoed appropriations. If the Governor line-item
vetoes any substantive language in an appropriation bill, all substantive language
is vetoed. A controversial 1991 Oklahoma Supreme Court decision directs the Governor
to veto measures that violate the constitutional one-subject provision.
The Governor’s veto powers and the presentment clause do not apply to measures passed
by the Legislature for voter approval through the referendum process or simple and
concurrent resolutions. Revenue-raising bills that pass the Legislature but fail
to achieve the three-fourths majority approval from both houses of the Legislature
must be presented to the Governor for signature and must be approved by voters before
they become law. Such revenue-raising measures, pursuant to Article V, Section 33
of the Oklahoma Constitution, can only be considered at the next general election.
Consideration of a Veto
The Governor’s package or line-item veto messages are received by the house of origin
and entered in the journal of that house. The Legislature can then proceed to reconsider
the vetoed bill, or the item or items vetoed. The override effort will begin in
the house of origin. If the override fails there, the measure will die at the end
of that Legislature. For measures that do not have emergency provisions, the override
requires the approval of two-thirds of both houses (68 votes in the House, 32 in
the Senate). For measures or items with an emergency clause, the override requirement
increases to three-fourths of both houses (76 in the House and 36 in the Senate).
There are no time limits in the constitution for the Legislature to override a gubernatorial
veto during the Legislature in which the veto message is received. A motion to override
a veto can be made at any time and as often during that Legislature as desired.
In any case, the authors of measures who may be concerned about a veto should consider
in their strategy the possibility for a veto and passing of such measures sufficiently
in advance of the end of the session that, if the measure is vetoed, the authors
and those in favor of the measure can work for an override.
If there is no emergency, a bill also may be overturned by the people through the
referendum process. Revenue-raising bills, even if they obtain the three-fourths
super majority, cannot have emergencies. The referendum petition may be against
all or part of an act. Such petitions require the signatures of 8 percent of the
voters based on the last general election for statewide offices. The petition must
be submitted to the Secretary of State not less than 90 days after the sine die
adjournment of the Legislature that passed the measure. Should the petition include
sufficient legal signatures, a popular vote on the affected bill or portions thereof
will have to take place before it can become law.
Publication as Law
Once enacted, the measure is sent to the Secretary of State who makes it available
to the public as an act. Copies of the act can be requested from that office or
from Bill Distribution, Room 310 at the State Capitol (521-5514). Members can have
copies of a bill sent to constituents at no charge.
In addition, the House of Representatives is responsible for the publication and
the distribution of the Oklahoma Session Laws and the cumulative supplements to
the Oklahoma Statutes, which are published by West Group. The statutes are published
as a set every ten years. The last compilation was in 1991. Supplements are prepared
each year. The session laws (containing all the acts passed that session) and supplements
are not available until the end of the interim. Periodic pamphlets containing chapters
of the session laws are published earlier by West Group and made available to the
public, members, and staff of the Legislature. The acts are arranged in the session
laws in the order that the bills are signed into law and are published with a suitable
index devised by the publisher by subject and tables showing the sections of the
Oklahoma Statutes affected by the new laws.
Oklahoma Statutes and House rules permit bills to carry over between regular sessions
of any Legislature. In other words, bills introduced in the odd-numbered years can
be considered in the following session with some exceptions. However, all bills
not passed in that second session die.
It is possible for a standing committee to consider and act on carryover measures
in its possession between the first and second regular sessions. Such bills can
then be reported to the appropriate house for general order in the second regular
session. For House committees, rules require at least seven days notice for meetings
and a quorum for the committee to act on the bills.