Tracking Legislation: Lawmaking in Massachusetts
The legislative – making body in Massachusetts is called The General Court.
It is split into the House of Representatives, which has 160 members, and the Senate, which has 40 members.
The Path of Legislation
- Petitions are first recorded in a docket book in the House or Senate Clerk’s office. The clerks assign numbers to bills and assign them to the appropriate joint committees. There are 26 committees who study bills pertaining to their area of expertise <http://www.mass.gov/legis/commenu.htm >>.
- The committee schedules a public hearing on the legislation. Citizens, legislators, and lobbyists can voice their views at these hearings. The committee later meets in a session (open for observation to the public) to discuss public testimony and the bill.
- The committee makes recommendations to the House and/or Senate, issuing a report labeling the bill “ought to pass”, “ought not to pass”, or “as changed”.
“Ought To Pass” “Ought Not to Pass”
The bill goes to the Journal The bill is referred to the Committee
of the House & Senate Clerk on Ethics & Rules in the Senate or
for reading. Placed in the Orders of the Day for
the next session of the House.
- The bill is open to amendments and motions after its second reading, and is
referred to the Committee on Bills for a third reading, to check its constitutionality and that it does not repeat or conflict with existing legislation.
- The bill then must pass through three readings and engrossment in the second legislative branch.
- If the second branch amends the bill, it returns to the original branch for a vote. If it is rejected, a committee with three members from each legislative branch representing both parties is formed to create a compromise bill. It is then sent to both legislative branches for approval.
- The House and then the Senate vote to “enact” the bill.
- The bill is reviewed by the governor, who can sign it into law, allow it to become law without signing it (if the bill is held for ten days without action while the legislature in session, it automatically becomes law), veto it, or recommend changes and return it.
- A bill signed by the governor or passed by 2/3 of both branches over his veto becomes law and can be effective in ninety days.
Tools for Monitoring Legislation
– Visit www.mass.gov/legis  for comprehensive information on the Massachusetts legislature, including full texts of legislation, information on existing laws and committees. You can also view the calendars and journals for the House and Senate.
- Also visit this website for lists of legislature leadership (click on “Leadership” on the main page) and members of the House and Senate (links to these lists fall under the “Legislators” section on the main page). These lists also provide contact information for the legislators you may want to lobby.
– Go to http://www.mass.gov/legis/ltsform.htm  and search for the legislation you want to track. You can either enter a related phrase or search by its House and / or Senate number. This will tell you at what stage in the legislative process the bill is at, and when the public hearing is.
– Also look for advocacy efforts from our partners, such as letter writing campaigns, petitions, and call – ins that are relevant to the right to health in MA.
Based on information from http://www.mass.gov/legis/lawmkng.htm