My office often gets asked about how a bill in the Maryland General Assembly gets through committee. It can be a long, frustrating procedure, but one that can ultimately pay off when your neighbors’ everyday lives are made better. This makes the whole process worth it, and is one of the biggest reasons why I love being your State Senator.
The first step in getting to committee is getting a bill drafted and dropped. A constituent comes to me with an idea or concern that affects the public. Once it is determined that it can become a bill, we send it to bill drafting, and then it gets submitted or “dropped.”
The bill is then referred to a committee by the presiding officer, which in my case, is the Senate President, Senator Thomas V. Mike Miller. The four standing committees in the Senate are the Budget & Taxation Committee (my current committee placement), Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Judicial Proceedings Committee. Once the bill lands in one of these committees, it is assigned a hearing date. A legislator can then invite experts and constituents to testify on behalf of their bill in front of the committee.
Once the bill is presented by the legislator, a number of things can happen. As explained in the Legislative Handbook Series, “Legislators Handbook,” Vol 1, the chair, who is also appointed by the presiding officer, “prepares a list of bills for committee votes,” after the bills have been heard. The chair of the committee can even choose to stow the bill away, where it will never see a vote, despite having been heard.
However, if the chair decides that the bill is worthy of voting, the committee meets for a designated voting meeting, where they decide whether it is passed with a “favorable,” “favorable with amendments,” or an “unfavorable.” This is an important time in the lifespan of a bill- amendments can be offered that can change the legislation in a big way, all the way up to the “third reader.”
The public should remember that the major thing with bills- especially while in Session- is to track ones that are meaningful to you and to call your legislators to create accountability. When I know that a bill means something to my constituents, I pay extra attention to where it sits within the committee process. When enough of the public lets their representatives know that they are watching, those bills are much more likely to see a vote, which allows you to understand where these elected officials sit on these important issues.
Please make sure to contact my office if you would like to tell me about a bill that I should support (or not support). I was elected to represent you and the best interests of our district. You can also track individual bills through the Maryland General Assembly website at www.mgaleg.maryland.gov.
As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or comments, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (410) 841-3587, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.