What Goes Into Creating a Bill?
Do you have something you want to see changed in your local community, or every community in Oregon? Maybe you want a simple change in state regulations to improve your daily farming operations? Or maybe you have a larger scale idea that will help mitigate the impacts of our global climate crises? There is no shortage of issues to be solved in our daily lives and across our state — and sometimes passing legislation is the best way to address those challenges!
Many of us know first-hand that bills bring about tangible change in our communities, especially for family farmers and the food system as a whole. Passing legislation on the state level can impact workers, families, businesses, farmers, landowners and community members in every corner of Oregon — from funding research projects to regulating pesticide use, the State Legislature plays an essential role in generating (or hindering) progress across the agricultural industry.
When a piece of legislation (a bill) comes before the Oregon House and Senate for consideration, advocates in every industry jump into the legislative process to make their voices heard — testifying on bills that directly impact their daily lives, promoting or spreading the word about legislation on social media, engaging with stakeholders, or through direct outreach to State Senators and Representatives.
While the process of passing a bill is familiar to some advocates and community-based organizations, many of us wonder: what goes into creating a bill?
Ideas, Introduction, Implementation
A bill is the most common type of measure (check out the others here) that runs through the state government. Bills are intended for the State Legislature to consider during a Legislative Session, and if passed, they become law.
There are several hoops a bill must jump through before becoming law: referral to a House or Senate committee, public hearings and work sessions (a vote on a bill in committee) within assigned committees, votes from both the House and Senate chambers as a whole, and finally a signature from the Governor’s office.
In fact, almost any idea has the potential to become a bill and maybe even a law! But before a bill can become a law, it first has to become a bill.
Ideas: Every bill begins with an idea to change, amend or create a law.
Who comes up with the idea for a bill? Anyone! An idea for a law can come from anyone, not just politicians. Consumer groups, professional associations, labor unions, advocacy organizations, government agencies, the Governor, or even a single individual can come up with the idea for a bill.
Introduction: Most bills must be introduced by a State Legislator.
Some ideas come to legislators fully developed — with thought-out policy, coalition support, legislative strategy and a cohesive implementation plan. Other ideas come as just an idea — new and ready to unfold and change throughout the legislative process.
When someone has an idea, however fully or partially developed, the first step is to secure a bill sponsor. During the interim period (the time when our State Legislature is not actively in session), coalitions and community-based organizations have time to convene workgroups and other meetings to build support for their legislative ideas, and work to address any concerns from other advocates about a legislative concept — in addition to identifying legislative champions to sponsor your concept.
A bill sponsor is the House or Senate member (or committee) responsible for introducing a bill into their respective chamber. Bill sponsors use lawyers in the Office of Legislative Counsel to draft ideas into a bill, using appropriate legal language, so that it can be considered before the Legislature during a Legislative Session. Once a bill is drafted, other legislators can sign on as supporters, known as co-sponsors.
Once a bill has been drafted by lawyers, it is then presented to the Secretary of the Senate or the Chief Clerk of the House. They are responsible for assigning the bill a number and sending it back to the state’s attorney’s office to verify that all of the language and components of the bill are in order.
These processes all happen within tight deadlines. For the 2023 Legislative Session, which begins in January, legislators must submit the idea for a bill to the Legislative Counsel no later than September 23 of this year. Legislative Counsel then has until December 5 to draft the official bill and get it ready for its journey through the Legislature.
Once the Legislature convenes for session, every bill introduced by a member will be sent to either the House (if a Representative introduced it) or to the Senate (if a Senator introduced it) for its first reading.
From there, bills are referred to committees and begin the process of becoming law.
Implementation: if a bill successfully makes it through the process of becoming law, its final step is implementation. Each bill is written to include an effective date — the date in which that law, whatever it is, becomes official.
Every law begins with a bill. Every bill begins with an idea. Every year, this cyclical process begins again. With the 2022 Legislative Session over, we’re just at the beginning phase of this cycle: generating ideas for the 2023 Legislative Session.
Do you have an idea for a bill? Want to share more about the issues that matter most to you and your community members?
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Whether you are a farmer, rancher, local food supporter or food system advocate/professional, your voice is valuable to us when we are prioritizing our efforts for the future.