Missouri Legislative Process
The Missouri state legislature is commonly known as the Missouri General Assembly, more commonly known as the Legislature, composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Senate consists of thirty-four members, who are elected for four-year terms. Senators from odd-numbered districts are elected in presidential election years. Senators from even-numbered districts are chosen in the "off year" elections. Each senator must be at least 30 years of age; a qualified voter of the state for three years; and of the district he represents for one year. The Lieutenant Governor is president and presiding officer of the Senate. In his absence, the President Pro Tem, who is elected by the Senate members, presides.
The House of Representatives consists of 163 members, elected at each general election for two-year terms. A representative must be at least 24 years of age; a qualified voter of the state for two years; and of the district he represents for one year. The House of Representatives is presided over by the Speaker, who is chosen by the members, and in his absence by the Speaker Pro Tem.
The Missouri Constitution provides that new senatorial and representative districts be established after each federal decennial census. The last redistricting was in 2001. There will be a new redistricting in 2011 to determine the districts for the 2012 and subsequent elections.
Time of Meeting
The General Assembly convenes at the State Capitol in Jefferson City annually on the first Wednesday after the first Monday of January. It adjourns on May 30, with no consideration of bills after 6:00 p.m. on the first Friday following the second Monday in May. No appropriation bill may be considered after 6:00 p.m. on the first Friday after the first Monday in May. If the Governor returns a bill with his objections after adjournment sine die, the General Assembly is automatically reconvened on the first Wednesday following the second Monday in September for a period not to exceed ten days to consider vetoed bills.
The Governor may convene the General Assembly in special session for a maximum of 60 calendar days at any time. Only subjects recommended by the Governor in his call or a special message may be considered. The President Pro Tem and the Speaker may convene a 30 day special session upon petition of three-fourths of the members of each chamber.
Organization of the General Assembly
Following the general election in November of even-numbered years, the majority and minority members of each house caucus separately to nominate candidates for the offices to be elected by each body and to organize their parties for the coming session. Each party names its floor leader, assistant floor leader, whip, caucus chairman and caucus secretary.
Both houses of the General Assembly convene in their respective chambers at noon on the opening day of the session. The Senate is called to order by the Lieutenant Governor. Temporary officers are named and the roll of new and carryover senators is read. Newly-elected senators are then sworn in, usually by a judge of the Supreme Court. The President Pro Tem and other permanent officers are then elected and take an oath of office administered by the President of the Senate.
The House of Representatives is called to order by the Secretary of State and the oath is administered to all members, usually by a Judge of the Supreme Court. After the swearing-in ceremony a Temporary Speaker is elected. The Temporary Speaker presides for nomination and election of the Speaker, Speaker Pro Tem and other permanent officers. Temporary rules, usually the rules in force for the preceding session, are adopted.
After each house notifies the other that it is duly organized, a House Resolution is adopted inviting the Senate to a joint meeting to receive the Governor's message. The joint session is usually held in the second week of the session. Under the Constitution, the Governor, at the beginning of each session, delivers a message concerning state government with recommendations for the enactment of legislation.
Each house determines its own rules and procedures and rules may not be dispensed with except by unanimous consent or concurrence by a constitutional majority in the House (82) or by a vote of at least a majority of the Senate following at least one day's notice. Both the Senate and House of Representatives are required to keep a daily journal of their proceedings. The journals record motions and votes. No record is made of debate. At the end of the session the journals are published by the House and Senate.
How Bills Become Laws
No law is passed except by bill. Bills may be introduced in the House or Senate, except appropriations bills, which by tradition originate in the House. No bill (except general appropriations bills) may contain more than one subject, which is to be expressed clearly in its title. No bill can be amended in its passage through either house so as to change its original purpose. No bill other than an appropriation bill can be introduced in either house after the 60th legislative day of a session, unless consented to by a majority of the elected members of each house or requested by the Governor in a special message.
The legislative procedure is virtually the same in both houses. The following is the path a bill follows when introduced in the House.
I. INTRODUCTION OF A BILL
Members may prefile bills beginning December 1 preceding the opening of the General Assembly session. Bills prefiled are actually introduced on the first day of the session. Members may introduce bills through the 60th legislative day of the session.
II. FIRST AND SECOND READINGS
When introduced a bill is assigned a number and read the first time by its number and title only by the House reading clerk. It then goes on the calendar for second reading; following second reading it is assigned to committee by the Speaker of the House.
III. PUBLIC HEARING
A public hearing before the committee to which a bill is assigned is the next step in the legislative process. The bill is presented to the committee by its sponsor, and both proponents and opponents are generally heard in a single hearing. In the case of unusually controversial, complex or lengthy bills, several hearings may be held.
IV. COMMITTEE EXECUTIVE SESSION
After a hearing is held, a committee may meet to vote and make its recommendations. These executive sessions are also open to the public, but no testimony is taken. The committee may vote to:
1. Report the bill to the House with the recommendation that it "do pass."
2. Report the bill to the House with the recommendation that it "do pass" with committee amendments.
3. Report the bill to the House with the recommendation that a committee substitute for the bill "do pass."
4. Report the bill with the recommendation that it "do not pass." (Such a bill will not be taken up by the House unless 82 members vote to take it up.)
5. Report the bill to the House without recommendation.
The state constitution allows a bill to be taken from committee by one-third of the members of the House. Such a bill is placed on the calendar for consideration by the House.
V. PERFECTION OF A BILL
If a bill is reported favorably out of committee or a committee substitute is recommended, the bill or committee substitute is placed on the "perfection calendar." When its turn comes up for consideration it is debated on the floor of the House. If committee amendments are recommended, they are first presented, debated, and voted on. Further amendments can then be proposed by any House member. When all amendments have been debated and voted on, a vote is taken on whether to have the bill "perfected and printed," with any amendments incorporated into the bill. If a committee substitute is recommended, the House, after considering any amendments to the committee substitute, will vote on whether to adopt the committee substitute, before taking the vote to have the bill perfected and printed. The affirmative vote of a majority of the members present is sufficient to order a bill perfected and printed. The vote is usually a voice vote but may be by roll call and must, like any other motion, be by roll call if at least five members request it. The newly printed bill carries the word "Perfected" above the bill number.
VI. THIRD READING AND FINAL PASSAGE
After perfection and re-printing, a bill goes on the calendar for Third Reading. Only technical corrective amendments may be introduced at this stage, but members may debate the bill. At the conclusion of debate, a recorded vote is taken. Approval by a constitutional majority of the elected members (82 in the House) is required for final passage. If the bill receives the required minimum of 82 votes, it is sent to the Senate, where it is again read a first and second time; referred to a committee for a public hearing; reported by committee; amended on the floor and offered for final approval. If the Senate changes the bill in any way, it is sent back to the House with the request that the changes be approved. If they are, the bill is Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed and sent to the Governor for his consideration. If one or more Senate changes are rejected, a conference may be requested and five members from each house are designated as a conference committee. Upon agreement by the conference committee (usually a compromise of differences), each reports to its own house on the committee's recommendation. If both houses approve the conference committee report, the bill is declared Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed. The bill is reprinted and the words "Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed" are printed above the bill number. If either house rejects the conference committee report, it may be returned to the same or a newly-appointed conference committee for further conferences.
Consent Bills: There is a procedure in both the House and the Senate for expedited treatment of bills of a non-controversial nature. In the House the procedure is this: By unanimous vote any House committee may report a bill which neither increases state costs nor reduces state revenues to the consent calendar. The bill remains on the Consent Bills for Perfection Calendar for five days. At the end of that time, as long as at least five members have not objected to it being on the Consent Calendar, it is considered perfected and is placed on the Consent Bills for Third Reading Calendar. On Third Reading such bills may not be amended. They may, however, be amended in the Senate.
VII. SIGNING BY THE GOVERNOR
Bills Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed are signed in open session by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate. At the time of signing, any members may file written objections which are sent with the bill to the Governor. The Governor has fifteen days to act on a bill if it is sent to him during the legislative session; and forty-five days if the legislature has adjourned or has recessed for a thirty day period. The Governor has four options:
1. Sign the bill, making it become part of Missouri law.
2. Veto the bill. In this case, the bill is returned to the General Assembly where a two-thirds vote of both houses is required to override the veto.
3. Not sign the bill. Should the Governor take no action within the prescribed time, the bill goes to the Secretary of State, who then enrolls the bill as an authentic act. It then becomes law.
4. Veto line-items in an appropriation bill. On appropriation bills only, the Governor may choose to veto selected items within the bill. The General Assembly may override this veto by a two-thirds majority of both houses.
VIII. EFFECTIVE DATE OF LAWS
No law passed by the General Assembly can take effect until ninety days after the end of the session at which it was enacted (August 28 for regular sessions). However, if a bill was passed with an emergency clause attached, it takes effect immediately upon the Governor's signature. In addition, some bills specify the exact date when they are to take effect, which is usually a period of time longer than ninety days.
IX. PUBLICATION OF LAWS
All bills which become law are reported to the Secretary of State. The Joint Committee on Legislative Research publishes each year's bills in a book entitled Laws of Missouri. In addition, the Revisor of Statutes updates another publication, the Revised Statutes of Missouri, to reflect the changes made in the law each year.