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General Rules for Making Laws

Legislative acts may be described according to subject, e.g., appropriation acts, school laws, environmental protection laws, consumer protection laws, criminal laws, or concurrent resolutions to amend the Kansas Constitution. In terms of the actual legislative procedure, however, the main distinction relates to the form of the act, which is new, amendatory, or repealing, or any combination of the three.

An independent act usually contains a “new” topic or represents a fundamental change in, or major revision of, existing laws. Thus, a new act normally does not amend the law section by section. Recodification of laws frequently takes this form. An amendatory act, in contrast, changes the language in some existing law. A repealing act is one which does nothing but rescind, in whole or in part, an existing act or acts.

According to the Kansas Constitution, no law may be enacted except by bill. Accordingly, proposed laws are introduced and passed in bill form and each is known as a “House Bill” or “Senate Bill.” The process for a bill to become law is a long one, and not all bills will become law.

Drafting of Bills

A law begins as an idea that is introduced in the Kansas Legislature by one or more legislators. Staff members of the Revisor of Statutes Office draft bills, resolutions and other legislative documents upon request of any legislative member or committee, and provide legal consultation services to any member or committee as well. Another duty of the Revisor’s Office is to recommend to the appropriate committees of each chamber bills designed to update or clarify existing laws or to delete obsolete provisions.

Introduction and Reference of Bills

The Kansas Constitution states that bills may originate in either chamber. In its joint rules, the Legislature has set time deadlines for the introduction of bills by members and most committees. The rule allows each chamber, by a resolution adopted by a majority vote of the members, to make exceptions to the deadlines.

Any legislator or any standing committee, an interim committee of either chamber, and certain statutory committees may introduce a bill. Sometimes bills are introduced by two or more members (of the same chamber) as joint sponsors. All regular appropriation bills are introduced by the House Appropriations or the Senate Ways and Means committees. Bills can be introduced by a member or committee at the request of a constituent with the notation “By Request” appearing after the author’s name on the printed bill and in the journal. A “By Request” designation often suggests that the member or committee who introduced the bill is not necessarily an advocate for it.

How does a bill become a law?

The Kansas Legislature is comprised of two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate and each can propose and draft bills. Click on the icon below to view the steps it takes for a bill to go from an idea to a law.

Bill icon image

The introduction of a bill constitutes its formal presentation in its chamber of origin (either the House of Representatives or the Senate). At this time the title of the bill is read (except for the statutory citations) and the bill is printed for general distribution. Either on the day of introduction or on the next legislative day, the bill is referred to a standing committee.

Consideration by Standing Committee

Once the bill is referred to the standing committee, the committee meets, holds public hearings, discusses the bill, formulates recommendations, and then prepares a committee report for submission to the House or Senate. The report of a standing committee usually includes one of the following recommendations:

  • That the bill be passed – the committee agrees the bill merits consideration and requires no changes.
  • That the bill be passed as amended – the committee believes the bill should pass, but that certain changes should be made therein (the committee prepares the amendments and reports them to the chamber).
  • That the bill not be passed – the committee believes the bill does not merit further consideration, either in the original or an amended form.
  • That a substitute bill be passed – the committee proposes amending a bill by the use of a substitute bill (usually occurring when the amendments proposed to the original bill make numerous and extensive changes in the language of the bill).
  • Report without recommendation – the committee is unable to decide upon a recommendation, or does not wish to assume the responsibility for making one, but believes a bill should be brought before the whole chamber for consideration.

Consideration by Committee of the Whole

If reported favorably, the bill goes next to the committee of the whole (the entire membership of that legislative body) under the calendar heading of General Orders. Eventually, the bill may be debated and be recommended for passage with or without amendments. Any member of the House or Senate may offer amendments and speak for or against the bill.

Final Passage

If recommended for passage by the committee of the whole, the bill is placed on the calendar under the heading of Final Action. A roll call vote is taken to determine if the bill will be passed by the chamber. To pass the body, the bill must receive a majority vote of all of the elected (or appointed) and qualified members.

Action by Second Chamber

Having passed the first chamber, the bill is messaged, or sent, to the second chamber where the same procedure as before is followed: introduction, committee approval, committee of the whole approval, and secondary chamber vote for final passage. If the second chamber passes the bill without amendment, it is enrolled, i.e., printed in its final form, for consideration by the governor. If the second chamber amends the bill and the first chamber concurs (agrees to accept the amendments), the bill also is considered finally passed. If the first chamber disagrees with the amendment, a conference committee usually is appointed to work out an agreement.

The conference committee is comprised of a few members of each chamber. Its job is to work through the differences of each chamber’s bill and construct a new one that is sent to both chambers. The chambers both vote on it, and if it is not approved the conference committee must work on the bill some more. The bill can die, however, if the conference committee can absolutely not agree on a new bill. When both chambers have approved the report of the conference committee by a majority of all members on a roll call vote, the bill is considered finally passed.

Action of the Governor

Within ten days after passage, the enrolled bill must be signed by the presiding officers of each chamber, the chief clerk of the House and the secretary of the Senate, and be presented to the governor for approval. The governor has ten days after receipt of the bill to act on it. If the governor does not act on it during the ten-day period, the bill automatically becomes law without the governor’s signature.

Most bills passed by the Legislature are approved by the governor. However, the governor may veto a bill by refusing to sign it and returning it to the chamber in which the bill originated, together with a statement of the reasons for the veto. In appropriation bills only, the governor may veto some items (line-item) and approve the others by signing the bill. However, should the governor veto a bill, the Legislature, by a two-thirds vote in both chambers, may override (overturn) the governor's veto and the bill will be enacted into law without the governor’s signature.

Once the bill becomes a law, whether by the governor’s approval or a legislative override, it is filed with the secretary of state.