Overview of State Legislative Process

How does a Bill become a Law?

Introduction and Committee Referral:

  • A bill may be introduced in the House or Senate.
  • Each bill is assigned a number, read by title and sponsor, and referred to a standing committee by the Committee on Committees.

Committee Consideration:

  • Committee meetings are open to the public.
  • When there is sufficient interest in a subject, a public hearing is held.
  • A bill may be reported out of committee with one of the following reports: favorable, favorable with amendments, favorable with committee substitute, unfavorable, or without opinion.
  • A committee can kill a bill by failing to act on it.

First Reading:

  • When a committee reports a bill favorably, the bill has what's called its "first reading" and is placed in the Calendar for the following day.
  • If a committee reports a bill unfavorably or without opinion, the bill is not likely to progress.

Second Reading and then To Rules:

  • The bill is read by title a second time and sent to the Rules Committee.
  • The Rules Committee may recommit the bill or place it in Orders of the Day for a specific day.

Third Reading and Passage:

  • "I move that House Bill 100 be taken from the Orders of the Day, read for the third time by title only, and placed upon its passage." This motion, usually by the majority floor leader, is adopted by voice vote, and the floor is open for debate.
  • Following debate and amendments, a final vote on the bill is taken.
  • To pass, a bill must be approved by at least two-fifths of the members of the chamber (40 representatives or 16 senators) and a majority of the members present and voting.
  • If the bill contains an appropriation of funds or an emergency clause, it must be approved by a majority of the members elected to each house, (51 representatives and 20 senators).

What Happens Next?

  • If a bill is defeated, that is the end of it, unless two members who voted against it request its reconsideration, and a majority approves.
  • If a bill passes in one house, it is sent to the other chamber, where it follows much the same procedure.
  • Both houses must agree on the final form of each bill.
  • If either house fails to concur in amendments, the differences may be reconciled by a "conference committee" of senators and representatives.
  • Compromises agreed to by this conference committee are subject to approval by both houses.


  • After passage by both houses, a bill is read carefully to make sure the final wording is correct.
  • The bill is signed by the presiding officer of each house and sent to the Governor.

Governor's Action:

  • The Governor may sign a bill, permit it to become law without signature, or veto it.
  • The Governor has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to act on a bill after it is received.
  • The bill may be passed over the Governor's veto by a majority of the members of both houses.
  • Kentucky's present Constitution, adopted in 1891 and amended several times since, contains a number of provisions that govern the legislative branch.
  • These provisions define session dates, legislative districts, terms and qualifications of office, the conduct of legislative business, legislative leadership, and legislative support staff.


  • The General Assembly meets annually in Frankfort convening on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January.
  • In even-numbered years, sessions may not last more than 60 legislative days, and cannot extend beyond April 15. In odd-numbered years, sessions may not last more than 30 legislative days, and cannot extend beyond March 30.
  • A "legislative day" is defined as a calendar day, excluding Sundays, legal holidays, and any day on which neither house meets.
  • Special Sessions may be called by the Governor to deal with specific subjects. There is no time limit, but special sessions are usually brief.


  • Rules and Committees, adopted separately by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, when the General Assembly meets in Session, serve as a code governing the proceedings of the Senate and House of Representatives respectively,  and their committees.
  • New Rules are adopted at the beginning of each Session.


  • The General Assembly is required to divide the state into 38 Senate districts and 100 House districts.
  • Districts must be as nearly equal in population as possible, and although Section 33 of the Constitution prohibits the addition of a part of one county to another in defining a district or the joining of more than two counties to make a Representative district, a federal District Court has held that these provisions must give way to the standard of equality of representation required by the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution and also in Section 33.
  • A 1994 Kentucky Supreme Court decision (Fisher v. State Board of Elections, et al) recognized that counties must be split to achieve population equality to accommodate both principles to the extent permissible under federal law.
  • The counties forming a district must be contiguous, according to Section 33. Districts must be reviewed every 10 years and be re-divided if necessary.



  • be at least 30 years old;
  • be a citizen of Kentucky;
  • have resided in the state at least 6 years and in the district at least 1 year prior to the election. Senators are elected for four year terms, with half the Senate elected every two years.


  • be at least 24 years old;
  • be a citizen of Kentucky;
  • have resided in the state at least 2 years and in the district at least 1 year prior to election.
Representatives are elected for two year terms in November following the regular session of the General Assembly. The entire House is elected at the same time.



  • The President and President Pro Tem are elected by the full membership of that body.


  • The Speaker of the House and the Speaker Pro Tem are elected by the full membership of that body.


  • Floor leaders, Caucus chairs and Whips - are selected by Democratic and Republican caucuses in both chambers during the organizational session. These members are responsible for seeing that the interests of their parties are well served.


  • The Constitution also specifies constitutional officers to carry out clerical and support activities for the General Assembly.
  • Among these are the Chief Clerks elected by each chamber, responsible for minutes of sessions, roll calls, bill calendars, recording committee assignments, certifying the passage of bills and resolutions, and the official Journal of each chamber.
  • The Sergeants-at-arms clear unauthorized persons from the floor of the House and Senate before each session and as otherwise directed; compel the attendance of members sent for by the House; direct the delivery of mail, supervise the pages, and clear the galleries if there is a disturbance.
  • Other officers authorized by the constitution include doorkeepers, pages, janitors, and cloakroom keepers.