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How Laws Are Made

A bill mandating seat belts on school buses.Let's pretend the voters from Senator Jones' state (constituents) want a law requiring seatbelts on school buses. He and his staff write a bill, which is a draft (early version) of the proposed law. The bill is then passed out to each Senator. A Standing Committee (a small, permanent group made up of legislators who studies and reports on bills) reviews the bill and does one of three things:

1. Sends the bill back with no changes.
2. Makes changes and sends it back.
3. Tables the bill -- In other words, they can do nothing.

If the committee sends it back with no changes, then the bill goes on the Senate's calendar to be voted on. When that day comes, the bill is voted on and over half of the senators (51 of 100) must vote yes to pass it.

The Senate must vote in favor of the bill in order for it to move on to the House.

If the bill is passed by the Senate, it then moves to the other branch of Congress, the House of Representatives. The bill goes to a House committee, which studies the bill, and then is voted on by the representatives. Just as in the Senate, over half of the representatives (218 of 435) must vote yes to pass the bill.

After being passed by the Senate, the bill moves through the House of Representatives for approval.

If the bill is passed in both the Senate and House, the bill goes to the President of the United States. If the president signs the bill, it then becomes a law. It may also become law if the president does not sign it for 10 days. If the president rejects (vetoes) the bill, it can still become a law if two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House then vote in favor of the bill.

Once a bill has been approved by both the Senate and House, it is sent for presidential approval and then becomes law.

A bill may begin in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. So, Representative Smith could introduce a bill of her own just like Senator Jones. This bill would take the same steps only it would begin in the House of Representatives instead of the Senate.

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