On January 2, 2019, the Massachusetts General Court began its 2019-2020 session. The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) will continue to support legislation that enhances and improves protections for animals and to oppose reforms that endanger the welfare of animals in Massachusetts.
Click here to see ARL’s 2019-2020 legislative agenda.
The Massachusetts Legislature runs in a two-year cycle by calendar year, with each new cycle beginning in the January after the biennial state election.
Legislation may be filed by members of the House and Senate, and by the Governor. The state constitution also allows citizens to ask their legislators to present bills “by request”.
Each new session, hundreds to thousands bills are filed, but only a select few actually become law.
While the process is quite complex, here are 8 main steps a bill needs to go through before it becomes law:
- Bill Drafting. This document details every aspect of the proposed statute.
- Securing a Sponsor. The legislative sponsor will be the champion and voice for the statute.
- Bill Filing. Upon filing, each bill is assigned a number and referred to a committee.
- Joint Committee Hearing. This public forum allows members of the public, government officials, and office holders to speak either in favor of or against a proposed statute.
- Joint Committee Executive Session and Report. Following the hearing, the committee will decide if the statute will continue in the process.
- Bill Readings.
a. First Reading. If reported favorably by committee, the bill appears in the Journal of the House or Senate, and given its first reading. The bill is then typically referred to another committee for further review.
b. Second Reading. At this stage, the bill is debated and subject to motions and amendments.
c. Third Reading. The bill continues to be subject to debate, motions, and amendments in the House or Senate. Once debated, a vote is taken to pass the bill to be engrossed. If passed, the bill moves on to the other legislative branch.
- Consideration. If the bill advances through three readings and is engrossed in the second legislative branch, it will be sent to the Legislative Engrossing Division to be typed on special parchment – as required by law.
- Bill Enacted. A vote to enact by both legislative branches passes the bill, and the newly created law will then be sent to the governor for consideration. The governor can: sign the bill into law; veto the bill; or send the bill back to the Legislature with recommended amendments. In general, laws become effective 30-90 days after the Governor’s signature.
Lobbying is the key to a bill’s momentum as it goes through the legislative process. It’s more than just standing up and saying “I support this”.
A successful lobbying strategy includes the following:
- Compiling an informational packet containing a one-page fact sheet on the bill, and any relevant news articles that support the bill
- Meeting with elected officials is critical – don’t just drop by, arrange a sit-down meeting to discuss the legislation and ALWAYS follow-up with a thank you note!
- Reach out to local media through press releases in order to publically discuss the bill and to introduce it to a wider audience to garner further support