From details on the state's unique budget process, to information on how state legislators develop and pass laws, this section contains resources for students, teachers, and anyone else wanting to learn more about Arkansas government.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
A bill is simply an idea that someone would like to see become law. It could be anything from setting the penalty for committing a crime, to establishing the amount of money that can be spent on a state program.
The idea can come from anyone, but only a Representative or Senator can take that idea and guide it to final passage through the General Assembly.
Drafting a bill simply means putting the idea into legal language and making sure it meets the requirements of the Joint Rules of the House and Senate. The actual drafting is done by the Bureau of Legislative Research.
Introduction of a bill can be made by any member of the House or Senate, and more than one legislator can sponsor a bill. A bill is given to the Chief Clerk of the House or the Secretary of the Senate and assigned a number. The sponsor(s) of a bill signs the original copy.
First and Second Readings are the next steps. It is customary for a bill to be read the first and second time on the same day, but only the number and title are read unless the members vote otherwise. After reading, a bill is assigned to committee.
There are ten standing committees in the House and nine similar standing committees in the Senate. Each House committee has 20 members. Senate committees have seven or eight members each. There are five joint committees made up of members from both the House and Senate.
During legislative sessions, committees usually meet in the mornings to examine bills. Committees generally are where public comments are gathered on proposed legislation. During a committee hearing, the Senator or Representative sponsoring a bill will explain the measure, and will often bring in expert testimony as support. Those who oppose a bill will also present their case.
Committee action is crucial to the legislative process. A committee’s responsibility is to examine a bill carefully and make one of three recommendations: Do Pass, Do Pass as Amended, or Do Not Pass.
The committee report on a bill is read to the entire membership of the House or Senate. From there, if a member of the General Assembly wants to change the wording of a bill, add something or take something out of a bill, the Senator or Representative will amend the legislation. While any legislator can propose an amendment, it takes a majority of the entire membership of one chamber to adopt an amendment. Once adopted, the amended bill must also be considered by a committee.
When the committee has completed its deliberations, the bill is placed in its final form, with or without amendments, on the Calendar. The bill is now ready to be read a third time, debated and voted on by the entire membership of the House or Senate. It is up to the bill’s sponsor to bring it up for final consideration.
Most bills can be passed by a majority vote (51 in the House; 18 in the Senate), but most bills that appropriate money and some that increase taxes require a three-fourth’s vote of the membership of each body.