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Opinion: How a bill becomes a law in Missouri

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My fellow senators and I recently had a busy week in the state Capitol. Monday, Feb. 20, was Presidents Day, but the Missouri Senate met for committee hearings and floor debate like every Monday during session. The Senate third-read and passed several bills during the week, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to tell you more about the legislative process.

First, lawmakers file a bill, and it is first-read on the floor. Ideas for bills are often brought to legislators by concerned constituents. Then, a bill is second-read and referred to a committee that focuses on that section of the law. A committee hearing is scheduled, and public testimony is heard in support and opposition of the bill. This is one of the most important parts of the legislative process because it’s an excellent opportunity to hear how legislation could affect Missourians, which helps inform our decision making. If the committee passes the legislation, it is then eligible for debate on the Senate floor.

I’ve had the opportunity to present several bills in committee so far this session, and a few of my bills have even been passed by a committee. They are now on what is called a calendar in the legislature. These calendars list the order in which bills may be brought up for discussion on the floor. One of the majority floor leader’s responsibilities is to create each calendar and determine the bill order.

After being passed by committee, the bill will be placed on the “Senate Bills for Perfection” calendar. A majority of the debate and discussion happens on the Senate floor when a bill is brought up from this calendar. Members can introduce amendments, ask the bill’s sponsor questions about what the legislation does and discuss the impacts it could have on our state. A bill can be given first-round approval and “perfected” at this stage of the process. Then, it is brought up for another vote to be third-read and passed. Amendments may not be offered before the third-read vote, but discussion and debate may still occur.

Once a bill is third-read and passed, it is sent to the Missouri House of Representatives for consideration. The legislation follows the same path in the House. If the House passes a Senate bill with no changes, it is sent to the governor’s desk for his signature, and vice versa.

Last week, the legislature passed House Bill 14, a supplemental appropriations bill that includes an 8.7% cost-of-living pay raise for state employees, as well as $275 million for disaster aid grants, $148.71 million for matching grants to federally qualified health centers, $20 million to bolster security at local schools and $3 million for the Wood Energy Tax Credit Program. [Editor’s note: Gov. Mike Parson signed the bill on Feb. 27.]

As the session continues, we will send more bills to the governor’s desk. The governor may sign the bill into law or veto it, in which case the legislature may vote to overturn the governor’s veto during the annual veto session in September.

Over 650 bills have been filed in the Senate so far this session, and over 1,250 bills have been filed in the House of Representatives. However, you may be surprised to learn that only a fraction of those bills will be passed in a given session. This is because the legislative process is vigorous to ensure the bills that do pass have been reviewed several times for accuracy and intent.

I’m looking forward to the next several weeks as we continue to discuss legislation on the Senate floor. It is an honor to be your state senator, and I am excited to continue serving as your voice in state government.

Republican state Sen. Curtis Trent serves residents in Barton, Dade, Greene and Webster counties. He can be reached at Senate.mo.gov/Trent.

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