The Legislative Process

The Legislative Process
Each year, Maine's legislators consider hundreds of ideas for new state laws. Ideas for bills come from many different sources including: legislators, Committees, lobbyists, public interest groups, the Governor, state agencies and individual citizens. However, only legislators, Commissions and the Joint Select Standing Committees may introduce bills for formal consideration by the Maine Legislature. In addition to introducing legislation they have developed, legislators also act as sponsors for bills proposed by other people or groups.

Bill Drafting & Introduction
Initial versions of bills may be prepared by legislators, the persons or groups they are sponsoring the measures for, or by legislative staff and executive agencies. Before formal introduction, the Director of Legislative Research must review all proposed bills and arrange those initial versions into their proper format, accepted legislative style and usage. Cloture dates, which are deadlines for submission of bills to the Research Office, are set by Joint Legislative Rules.

After review, a bill is returned to its sponsor and cosponsors for signing. The draft is sent to the Secretary of the Senate or Clerk of the House, depending on whether the prime sponsor is a Senator or Representative. The Secretary and Clerk suggest the committee of reference, assign the bill a Senate or House Paper number, and place it on the next day's Calendar for consideration in that legislative body. The House and Senate then accept or reconsider the suggested committee reference. When both bodies approve the reference, they order the bill printed, at which time a second number, called a Legislative Document or L.D. number, is assigned and the bill goes to Committee for consideration.

The Committee Process
Before they are considered by the full Legislature, all bills are reviewed and analyzed by legislative committees. First a public hearing is held; second the bill is further reviewed and discussed in work sessions; and finally, a recommendation or report is issued to the full Legislature.

Public Hearing
Dates and times for public hearings are set by the House and Senate chairmen of each committee and publicized in newspapers and in weekly legislative hearing schedules. A public hearing allows legislative sponsors, citizens, state officials and lobbyists to tell legislatures their views on a bill. The committee's formal action on a bill comes later at what is called a work session.

Work Session
The purpose of work sessions is to allow committee members to discuss bills thoroughly, draft amendments or review amendments proposed by others, and vote on the committee's final recommendations to the Legislature. Although not intended as another public hearing, they are open to the public. At the invitation of the committee, lobbyists and others may address the committee about bills being considered, suggest compromises or amendments, and answer questions. The committee may also ask legislative staff members to research and explain certain details of the bill. Committee Report - The committee's decisions on bills and amendments are expressed by votes on motions made during a work session; the final action is called a "committee report." The report a bill receives is often the most important influence on its passage or defeat. Several types of unanimous and divided reports on a bill are possible.

A unanimous report means all committee members agree. They include: "ought to pass," "ought to pass as amended," "ought to pass in new draft," "ought not to pass," and "leave to withdraw."

If an "ought not to pass" report is unanimous, the bill is placed in the legislative file. When that occurs, no further action may be taken by the legislature unless 2/3 of the members of both houses vote in favor of recall. In that event, a bill is reconsidered.

If committee members disagree about a bill, they may issue a divided report, which usually includes a majority and one or more minority reports on a bill.
Before reporting out a bill, the committee must determine whether the bill will increase or decrease state revenues. If there will be a fiscal impact, the information is developed by the Director of the Office of Fiscal and Program Review in consultation with the necessary executive agencies and a fiscal note is added by committee amendment. Any necessary appropriation is also added by committee amendment.

Floor Action
To be enacted, bills must pass through at least four steps on the floors of both the House and the Senate: first reading, second reading, engrossment and enactment.

First Reading
Once a bill is reported on by a Committee, it is returned to the house in which it originated. If there is a new draft, it is first prepared by the Legislative Research director for printing. Then the Clerk or the Secretary arranges for the report and title of the bill to be placed on the next day's calendar. The first time the bill, as reported by the Committee, is placed on the calendar, it receives its first reading by the Clerk or Secretary. After first reading, the bill is placed on the calendar for its second reading on the next legislative day, if there is no objection.

A legislator who wishes to delay a bill at any step of the process to get more information, or for other reasons, may make a motion to ├Čtable├« the bill until the next day or some other time. A legislator who strongly opposes a bill may make a motion for "indefinite postponement." If the indefinite postponement is approved, the bill is defeated. These motions must be approved by majority vote.

Second Reading & Debate
After a bill has had its first and second readings, it may be debated. At any point, a legislator or the presiding officer may call for vote on the current motion or bill. If a majority approves that motion, a vote is taken.