Indiana General Assembly 101

The General Assembly is the legislative branch of Indiana State government.

Organization

The Indiana General Assembly consists of 2 chambers: the House of Representatives and the State Senate.  The 100 members of the House of Representatives are elected to 2 year terms.  The 50 members of the Senate are elected to 4 year terms.  The majority party in each chamber selects a presiding officer (Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate).  The presiding officers have considerable power to set the agenda of their chamber and affect the outcome of legislation.  Each chamber has committees assigned to various topics such as education and economic development.

How A Bill Becomes a Law

Each legislator is entitled to file several bills each session for consideration.  When a bill is initially filed it is considered to have been read by the chamber for the first time.  It is at this point that the leadership in the chamber refers it to the committee having jurisdiction concerning the matter.  The exception to this is that a bill can be referred to a Rules Committee which effectively kills it.

Once referred to a committee, it is up to the committee Chairperson to schedule it for a hearing or not.  If a bill does not receive a hearing it dies with no action.  If a bill does get a hearing the committee may make changes to the bill and pass it back to the full chamber.  Having been approved by the committee, with or without amendments, the author of the bill may ask that the full chamber consider the bill and propose any amendments.  This is referred to as 2nd reading.  After a bill is read for the second time, the author may once again ask the full chamber to consider the bill on 3rd reading. If a bill passes on 3rd reading it is sent to the other chamber to go through the same process.  Each chamber enforces a schedule for when bills must pass 3rd reading. If they are not passed by that deadline they are dead.  If both chambers pass identical versions of the bill it then goes to the Governor to sign or veto.  If they pass different versions, a conference committee is established to come up with an identical version that can pass both chambers.  It is common practice for bills that have been killed or are likely to be killed to be amended into other bills.  Once the session starts new bills are not allowed to be introduced so each session a number of vehicle bills are filed with no content.  As the session progresses these blank bills are amended.