Introduction of New Bills
Every new piece of legislation begins as a bill before a specific committee, depending on the subject matter of the bill. (For example, education related matters for grades K-12 would be introduced in the Education Committee of the General Assembly.)
Once the specific committee of cognizance receives and reviews a bill, the committee decides to take one of the following actions:
- Draft the bill into legal language;
- Draft the legal language, in combination with other bills already being considered, so that it becomes a “committee bill”;
- Refer the bill to another committee; or
- Take no action (which means the bill dies)
Alternatively, a bill can be born when a committee decides to write a new “raised bill” because the committee has decided, on its own, that a specific subject or issue under their jurisdiction is of such importance that it warrants legislation.
House and Senate Bill Numbers
Regardless of how a bill is born, each bill is eventually assigned a number that stays with the bill throughout the legislative process. No other bill will have that number during the legislative session. If the bill started in the House, it will be a House Bill, indicated by “HB” before the bill number. If the bill started in the Senate, it will be a Senate Bill, indicated by “SB” before the bill number.
The next step is for the Committee to hold a public hearing on any of the bills it wishes to consider. This is where members of the public and any public officials have an opportunity to testify in support of, or opposition to, a particular bill being heard on a given day. When public hearings are scheduled for specific bills, they are posted on the CT General Assembly website with information about where and when the hearings will be held. If you want to speak at a public hearing about a particular bill, you should plan ahead by reading the bill, preparing a speech about three minutes in length, and showing up about an hour in advance so that you can sign up to speak. While you’re waiting for your turn to speak, public hearing etiquette calls for you to refrain from applauding or indicating whether you agree or disagree with the remarks of others. When it’s your turn to speak, begin with, “Mr. Chairman (or Madam Chair) and members of the committee,” and then indicate right away whether you support or oppose the bill, following up with your explanations.
After the Committee has heard from the public at the hearing, it will decide whether any of the bills under consideration should be taken up by the full General Assembly. If there are no changes to the language in the bill, it receives a “joint favorable” or “JF” vote. On the other hand, if the Committee decides to change the language in the bill before it is voted out favorably, the bill becomes a “substitute bill”. (A substitute House bill will be filed with sHB in its title, and a substitute Senate bill will read sSB.) Substitute language could be minor or it could be a complete rewriting of the bill.
During the committee process, any legislator can offer an amendment to the original or substitute bill, and the committee will vote on whether to accept the amendment. If the amendment passes, the language will be incorporated into the bill.
Once the committee has finished reviewing the bill, it will either be sent to the “floor” of the House or Senate, or it will be sent to another committee. (The latter is referred to as a “change of reference”, and the whole process basically starts over until the new committee again votes to send the bill to the floor.)
House or Senate Vote on a Bill
Next, it’s time for the House or Senate to vote on the bill. During debate on a bill, legislators may propose amendments to make changes. Amendments take on several forms. They can add language, delete sections, add provisions from another bill or strike the entire bill and replace it with a “new” one.
After a chamber (the House or Senate) votes yes on a bill, it needs to pass in the other chamber. If a bill is amended by the second chamber and the House and Senate do not agree, the bill is sent to a joint conference committee. If the conference committee comes to an agreement, then the bill passes as agreed upon. If not, then the bill dies.
Once the House and Senate pass the bill, it is sent to the Governor. The Governor will decide to either sign, veto or take no action on a bill before him.
Upcoming Public Hearings on Education Bills
Tomorrow, the Education Committee will be holding a public hearing to discuss the portions of the Governor’s Proposed Bill that cover teacher certification, evaluation, and contractual issues, as well as vocational-technical school governance, and early childhood education. To find out details about the hearing, including the specific sections of the Governor’s Bill being covered on Tuesday, click here.
On Wednesday, the Education Committee will hold a second public hearing on the Governor’s Proposed Bill, specifically dedicated to the issues of school finance, accountability, and low performing schools. To find out details about the hearing, including the specific sections of the Governor’s Bill being covered on Wednesday, click here.
After the public hearings, the Committee will decide whether to seek to amend the bill, or to give it a joint favorable vote.
We’re excited to present our testimony in favor of the Governor’s bill tomorrow and Wednesday and hope that we’ll hear some of our readers sharing their thoughts on the Governor’s proposed reforms. Most importantly, we hope that Connecticut’s legislators recognize that the time for action is now upon us and make the bold decision to challenge the status quo, so 2012 will truly be Connecticut’s “Year of Education Reform”!