How does the legislative process work?
All laws in South Carolina begin as bills. Before a bill can become a law, it must be approved by the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate, and then it is presented to the Governor for signature, veto, or approval without signature.
STEP ONE: The Bill Begins
Laws begin as ideas. These ideas may come from a member of the South Carolina General
Assembly -- or from the general public. Citizens who have ideas for laws can contact their representatives in the South Carolina General Assembly to discuss their ideas. If the Representative/Senator agrees, they research the ideas and write them into bills.
STEP TWO: The Bill Is Proposed
When a Representative/Senator has written a bill, the bill needs a sponsor. The Representative/Senator talks with other members about the bill in hopes of getting their support. Once a bill has a sponsor and the support of at least one Representative/Senator, it is ready to be introduced.
STEP THREE: The Bill Is Introduced (First Reading)
In the South Carolina House of Representatives or in the South Carolina Senate, a bill is placed in the hopper -- special box on the side of the clerk’s desk. Only Representatives/Senators can introduce bills in the South Carolina House of Representatives/ South Carolina Senate. When a bill is introduced in the SC House of Representatives, a bill clerk assigns it a number that begins with H. A reading clerk then reads the bill to all the Representatives, and the Speaker of the House sends the bill to one of the House standing committees. When a bill is introduced in the South Carolina Senate, a bill clerk assigns it a number that beings with S. A reading clerk then reads the bill to all the Senators, and the President of the Senate sends the bill to one of the Senate standing committees. When the bill is sent to committee this is considered first reading.
STEP FOUR: The Bill Goes To Committee
When the bill reaches committee, the committee members (groups of Representatives/ Senators who are experts on topics such as business, agriculture or education) review, research, and revise the bill before voting on whether or not to send the bill back to the House/Senate floor. This is where a bulk of the work is done on a bill. If the committee members would like more information before deciding if the bill should be returned to the House/ Senate floor, the bill is sent to a subcommittee where the bill is closely reviewed and expert opinions are gathered before it is returned to the full committee for approval. In the South Carolina House of Representatives, this is typically the only time the public is allowed to provide testimony and input. However, the South Carolina Senate tends to be more flexible in taking testimony during the full committee process. Testimonies are typically offered by citizens, state agencies, lobbyists or any other group/individual interested in the bill.
STEP FIVE: The Bill Is Reported Out & Placed On The Calendar
When the committee has approved a bill, it is sent to the House or Senate floor. Once reported out, a bill is placed on the calendar and ready to be debated by the South Carolina House of Representatives/ South Carolina Senate.
STEP SIX: The Bill Is Debated (Second And Third Reading)
When a bill is debated, Representatives/ Senators discuss the bill and explain why they agree or disagree. This is the first opportunity for the entire body to recommend changes to the legislation. When all changes have been made and agreed upon, the bill is ready to be voted on. This step is considered second reading. If a majority of the Representatives/Senators who are present in the chamber vote yes, the bill moves to the final step in the body, third reading. Third reading in the South Carolina House is largely a formality, whereas third reading in the South Carolina Senate is still open for debate.
STEP SEVEN: The Bill Is Referred To The Non-originating Chamber
When a bill reaches the non-originating Chamber, it goes through many of the same steps it went through in the introductory body. The bill is discussed in committee and then reported to the body floor to be voted on.
STEP EIGHT: The Bill Is Sent To The Governor
When a bill reaches the Governor, s/he has three options to take place within a five day period. S/he can:
- Sign and pass the bill—the bill becomes a law.
- Veto the bill—the bill is sent back to the originating chamber, along with the Governor’s reasons for the veto. If the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate still believe the bill should become a law, they can hold another vote on the bill. If two thirds of the Representatives and Senators support the bill, the Governor’s veto is overridden and the bill becomes a law. Should either body sustain the veto, then the bill dies.
- Refuse to sign the bill -- Should the Governor fail to act within five days, the bill will become law without signature.
STEP NINE: The Bill Is A Law
If a bill passed both the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate and has been approved by the Governor, or if a Governor’s veto has been overridden, the bill becomes a law and is enforced by the government. The bill then becomes an Act in the South Carolina Code of Laws.