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How a bill becomes a law

Posted on Monday, February 25, 2013 at 9:32 am

Pat Marsh

Pat Marsh

By Pat Marsh, State Representative

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” ~ John F. Kennedy

This week, I would like to share with you some information about how things work in the Tennessee State Legislature. I am often asked to explain the process of “how a bill becomes a law”. When there is an issue affecting the community that needs to be addressed, I will do a little research to see if there are any existing laws about the issue.  It is possible that an existing law could be amended to address the issue.

If none is found, then a Bill is drafted by the Legislative Legal Department and sent to the House Clerk’s Office to be assigned to the appropriate committee.  The law requires that I get co-sponsors of the bill from the Senate so I approach Senators who may be sympathetic to our issue and ask them to be a co-sponsor. The more co-sponsors I get from both the House and the Senate indicate the strength of the bill.

After the bill is passed out of the sub-committee, the bill is sent to the Full Committee for a hearing.  As presenter of the bill, I may be asked questions about the bill for clarification about the issue before it is voted on. Once passed by the full committee, the bill is sent to the Calendar and Rules committee to be heard on the House floor.  Bills that cause the state to spend money must first go through the Finance committee and then to Calendar and Rules in order to be placed on the House floor.

I present the bill on the House floor to be voted on by the members. A majority vote passes the bill.  When a bill is passed in the House, an identical bill must also be passed by the Senate before reaching the Governor’s desk for his signature. Once the Governor signs a bill, it is officially law.

It is of interest to note that in 2011, 2,161 House bills were filed. This number has decreased drastically in 2013 down to 1,340 House bills, the lowest it has been since 1987. This is largely in part to the fifteen bill limit that each representative has. This decrease in filed bills will save the taxpayers money and help the Legislature run much more efficiently.

We’ve had another busy week with the Committee System in full swing. I presented three of my bills in sub-committee this week, and all were passed out to the full committee.

Tuesday afternoon I had the pleasure of the attending the District Attorney reception where I got to visit with our D.A., Rob Carter, and two assistant D.A.s, Mike Randles and Brooke Grubb. They had a day of meetings with their fellow D.A.s from all across the state.

Also on Tuesday, I got to visit with some of the staff and board of the Fayetteville- Lincoln County Public Library. Jillian Rael, the new director of the Library, seems like she is really fired up and wants the library to become more user friendly and therefore much more used and enjoyed by the citizens of the county.

The United Way Organization had a wonderful day on the Hill. It was good to see Dawn Holly of Shelbyville and Debra Hardin of Lincoln County at a nice breakfast. Also that same morning, Senator Tracy and I presented a proclamation to the United Way Organization for celebrating their 125th year in Tennessee. We also had the great pleasure of being joined by the Governor’s wife, Chrissy Haslam, for the presentation of  this proclamation.

I would like to thank Dan Holt from Fayetteville for all the nice snacks he dropped off at our office while he was in town with the Tennessee Automatic Merchandising Association. Dan is the owner of the Shoney’s in Fayetteville and Lewisburg and does a lot of good community work in that area.

Wednesday morning I got to eat breakfast with the Bedford County School Board at the Sheraton here in Nashville. Amy Martin, their chairman, and most of the board were great hosts and also filled me in on their legislative concerns. Education is very important to our state, and I am always happy to meet with them and hear their concerns.

This year is going to be very busy in the Education Committee with proposed legislation covering school vouchers, virtual schools, charter schools and much more.

Marty Davis and John Jones from the Bedford County Utility District stopped by and asked for my help on an ECD grant they are seeking for a new water tank in the Wheel community. I also got to visit and eat dinner with Mike Wetherington with the American Development Corporation of Fayetteville. We discussed their issues with the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Please feel free to stop by my office or give me a call if you have any questions or concerns. You can reach me at (615) 741-6824 or by email at rep.pat.marsh@capitol.tn.gov. I am honored to represent the people of the 62nd district!