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Image of the St. Paul capitol building with the text "How a Bill Becomes a Law"

As the 2021 legislative session progresses, many bills are on their way to becoming law. While you may have learned how a bill becomes a law in school, many of us need a refresher. Here’s the steps a bill takes to becomes a law in Minnesota: 

1. Idea

All bills start as an idea for change. Ideas can come from anyone—a legislator, a lobbyist, a concerned Minnesotan—even you. Eventually, the idea will need to get support from a legislator in the House or Senate who will become a chief author. The idea is written up as a bill and assigned a number. To become a law, bills need to pass both the Senate and the House. Because of this, bills in one chamber will often have a “companion bill” which is an identical version of the bill introduced in the other chamber. 

2. Committee

Once the bill formed, it gets assigned to a committee. Committees are small groups of legislators who discuss bills related to a certain subject matter. Some examples of committees include Education, Taxes, or Health and Human Services. All committees are led by a committee chair who gets to decide what bills get heard in their committee. 

If the committee chair takes up a bill, the author of the bill will come to the committee and introduce the bill. People will testify for and against a bill—this may be experts, people who will be directly impacted by the bill, or concerned citizens. After testimony, legislators on the committee will discuss the bill. They may offer amendments, or changes, to the bill to vote on. Eventually, they will vote to pass the bill to another committee, table the bill, or pass it along to the floor. 

3. Floor Vote

Once the bill has passed committees, it will be sent to the floor. This is where all the legislators in that chamber get to discuss and vote on the bill. After discussion, they will vote on the bill. If the same bill passes the House and Senate floor, it goes to the Governor. 

4. Conference Committee 

While the bills may start off the same in both the House and the Senate, amendments often result in two bills with different language passing the House and Senate floor. When this happens, a conference committee is formed. This committee consists of a few legislators from both the House and the Senate. They take their bills and negotiate the differences in order to come up with one bill. That bill then goes back to the House and Senate floors to be voted on again. 

5. Governor

Once an identical bill is passed by both the House and Senate, it goes to the Governor. The Governor can either sign the bill into law or they can veto it. If the Governor vetoes it, the House and Senate could overturn the veto with a two-thirds majority vote.    

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