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The Legislative Process

The Indiana Governor's Council for People with Disabilities urges you to become involved in your local, state and national governments. This brochure provides basic and meaningful information on the legislative process so you, too, can initiate change.

Table of Contents


"Advocacy is a tool to bring about change"

Where do you want Indiana to be?

The type and quality of services provided by our state is in your hands. You can choose to make a difference by being informed and becoming an active participant with others in the policymaking process.

The Indiana Governor's Planning Council for People with Disabilities urges you to become involved in your local, state and national governments. This brochure provides basic and meaningful information so you, too, can initiate change.

Please refer to the glossary in the back of the brochure for clarification on words in boldface and others throughout the text.

The legislative process

The process a bill goes through to become a law doesn't have to be complicated, time-consuming and full of red tape. Following is an outline of the steps by which a bill becomes a law in Indiana and the role you can play in the process. Keep in mind that this is a very simplified model. This example applies to a bill originating either in the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Your bill starts here

  • You and supporters present an idea for a new bill verbally or in writing to your legislator.
  • The legislator from either the House or Senate decides to author the bill. The bill may originate in either chamber.
  • Legal specialists from the Legislative Services Agency draft the bill's language.
  • Once drafted, the bill is introduced by the legislator into his or her respective chamber, and assigned either to a standing committee by the Speaker of the House or President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
  • Standing committees hold hearings where they may approve, make additions to (amend) or reject the bill.
  • During the hearing, the chair of the committee may ask for additional comments on the bill. This is an opportunity to stand up and voice an opinion. (Hint: Your presentation should be well-organized and brief.)
  • If you are interested in making a longer presentation, you will need to be included as a speaker on the committee hearing's agenda. To arrange this, call the committee chairperson to request a place on the agenda. The names of committee chairpersons can be obtained from the Senate (317-232-9400) or the House (317-232-9700). Again, be sure to keep your presentation organized and brief.
  • A report of the committee's action (approval, amendment or rejection) submitted to the originating chamber.
  • The originating chamber (House or Senate) may agree or disagree with the committee's recommendation. If the committee suggests amending the bill, and the representatives or senators approve the amendment, the bill's language is altered, incorporating the committee's changes.
  • The bill is eligible for second reading in the originating chamber of the House or Senate on the second calendar day following distribution to the members.
  • The bill is eligible for amendment by individuals from the originating chamber on second reading. If any of the proposed amendments are accepted by the full chamber, the bill may be reprinted with the new language if deemed necessary.
  • If the bill passes second reading, it is eligible for third reading. At this stage of the process, legislators may debate the bill's merits.
  • During third reading, a roll call vote is taken. A constitutional majority in either chamber is required for the bill to pass: 51 or more votes in the House, 26 or more in the Senate. Fewer votes than this results in the rejection of the bill in the originating chamber.

Your bill: The final steps

  • If passed by the originating chamber, the bill is transferred to the other chamber, where a senator or representative will sponsor it.
  • The bill is assigned to an appropriate committee in the chamber and then repeats the same process as in the originating chamber (first reading, second reading, third reading).
  • If the bill is amended during its consideration in the chamber, it is referred to a joint House/Senate (conference committee). The conferees meet to resolve the differences. If the conference committee reaches mutually acceptable bill language, then the bill goes back to both chambers to be voted on again.
  • The bill is then printed in the form in which it has passed both chambers. This is called an enrolled act. The enrolled act is signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.
  • The Office of the Attorney General reviews each enrolled act for constitutionality prior to the Governor's action.
  • Each enrolled act is presented to the Governor who is required either:
    • to sign the act into law
    • to allow it to become law without signature after seven days
  • If vetoed, the House and Senate can override the veto by a constitutional majority vote in both chambers. The bill then becomes a law without the governor's signature.
  • After passage, the enrolled act is printed, bound and included into volumes which become Acts of Indiana.
  • New laws take effect July 1 of the year of passage unless otherwise specified in the enrolled act.

Key Indiana legislative committees

The legislative committees most likely to review legislation concerning individuals with disabilities include:

Indiana Senate Indiana House
Education Education
Finance Family & Children
Health & Human Services Human Affairs
Public Policy Public Policy
  Ways & Means

After a bill becomes a law in Indiana


Once a bill becomes law, the state or local agency with primary responsibility for the law must implement it. Generally, the law includes a provision naming the agency charged with this task. This responsibility is important to the law because crucial elements of a program can be changed in its implementation.

Your role

Concerned citizens must monitor this process. Sometimes, as the guidelines of the law are being written and implemented, they may vary from the original scope of the law.

Concerned citizens can call the state agency responsible for implementation to request information about what is being done and what opportunities there may be for public input.


Implementation of a law, especially one which has an impact on services, usually involves changing rules and regulations and/or changing policy. Often, the public is able to change the drafts of these rules and regulations by attending and voicing opinion during the state agency's public hearing process. The preparation of the rules and regulations for actual enforcement is called promulgation. The promulgated rules and regulations must receive public notice by being published in the Indiana Register. A copy of the Indiana Register is available at any public library.

Final steps

It is imperative that there is a budget available to enforce the law and support the program. A program will not work effectively if there is no budget available for support. It is also critical to notify any individual or group affected by the law. For example, if the law creates a new service program, any individual affected by the law needs to know who is eligible for the program's services and how to access the services. The public must also be aware of any law that requires any changes in everyday procedures.

Did You Know...

It is interesting to note that of the 877 bills introduces in the 1992 legislative session (464 Senate bills/413 House bills) only 158 became laws.

Bills can, however, be reintroduced in subsequent sessions. Depending on the complexity of the legislation, it usually takes an average of three to five years to get a bill signed into law.

How a federal bill becomes a law

The federal process is much like Indiana's. Please refer to the chart (not included in web version) for a simplified description.

Quick references

To contact your state legislators, call:

Indiana Senate Indiana House
(317) 232-9400 Voice or (317)232-9600 Voice or
(800) 382-9467 Voice (800)382-9842 Voice or
(317) 232-0404 TDD (800)382-9841 or TDD Number
(800) 548-9517 Voice/TDD  

Indiana Legislative Services Agency -- up-do-date information on bills, amendments, roll calls, committee schedules, legislative calendars and other pertinent materials.

State House, Room 302
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 232-9856.
(317) 232-0404 TDD
(800) 548-9517 TDD

United States Senate and House Cloakroom
Up-to-the-minute reports of what is happening on the floor of the United States Senate or House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

(Recorded message)
(202) 224-8541 (Democratic Senate)
(202) 224-8601 (Republican Senate)
(202) 225-7400 (Democratic House)
(202) 225-7430 (Republican House)
Indiana Lobbies

Association for Retarded Citizens of Indiana (ARC)
22 E. Washington Street, Suite 210
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 632-4387 Voice
Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana
3951 N. Meridian Street, Suite 300
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 921-1120 Voice

Council of Volunteers and Organizations for Hoosiers with Disabilities (COVOH)
842 N. Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 262-8632 Voice and TDD

Indiana Association of Home Health Agencies
8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1000
Indianapolis, IN 46240
(317) 844-6630 Voice

Indiana Association of Rehabilitation
Facilities (IN-ARF)
615 N. Alabama Street, Suite 105
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 634-4957 Voice or
(317) 466-4957 Voice

Indiana Coalition for Human Service
3901 N. Meridian Street, Suite 25
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 923-1466 Voice

Indiana Parent Information Network (IPIN)
4755 Kingsway Drive, Suite 105
Indianapolis, IN 46205
(317) 257-8683 Voice or (800) 964-4746 Voice

Mental Health Association of Indiana
1433 N. Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
(317) 638-3501 Voice

Federal Lobby
1522 K Street, N.W.
Suite 516
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 785-3388 Voice or (800)433-5255 Voice
(202) 785-3411 TDD

Autism Society of America, Inc.
8601 Georgia Avenue, Ste 503
Silver Springs, MD 20910
(301) 565-0433 Voice

Disability Rights Education Defense Fund (DREDF)
1633 Q St. N.W., Suite 220
Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 986-0375 Voice/TDD
(800) 466-4232 Voice

National Association of Developmental Disabilities Councils (NAADC)
1234 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Suite 103
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 347-1234 Voice

National Association of Mental Retardation
Program Directors, Inc.
113 Oronoco Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 683-4202 Voice

National Mental Health Association
1021 Prince Street
Alexandria, VA 22314 (703) 684-7722 Voice or (800) 969-6642 Voice

United Cerebral Palsy Association
Governmental Affairs Office
1522 K Street, N.W.
Suite 1112
Washington, D.C. 20005
(202) 842-1266 Voice or
(800) 872-5827 Voice

How to communicate with your legislators


Letter-writing is the most convenient and common way of communicating with your legislators. Written correspondence also gives the legislator something permanent to refer to. Although legislators sometimes receive hundreds of letters each week, your letter can have an impact. Most of our Indiana lawmakers read a significant portion of their mail personally. Some offices keep a periodic count of how their mail is running on particular issues. Be sure to write on printed personal or company stationery. This will eliminate any doubt about your name and address. If such stationery is not available, type your name and address at the end of the letter and place your handwritten signature above it. Your letters count! How to address your letters and where to send them

The Honorable John Doe
Indiana Senate
State House
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Senator Doe:
The Honorable John Doe
Indiana House of Representatives
State House
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Representative Doe:

Telephone Calls
Telephone calls also can be very useful to a constituent who wants to make his or her views known to a member of the Indiana General Assembly. Phone calls can be used when there isn't time for a letter. A phone call is also more personal than an electronic message and usually has more impact. Personal calls also can be used to learn where a legislator stands on an issue. Frequently, members of the Indiana General Assembly will have two responses to an issue, one for supporters and one for opponents of an issue. Be sure to do your homework before you make the telephone call. You may end up talking with an expert!

House of Representatives Telephone Center
(317) 232-9600 Voice or
(800) 382-9842 Voice (Democrat)
(800) 382-9841 Voice (Republican)
* TDD number scheduled to be available in 1993.

Indiana Senate Telephone Center
(317) 232-9400 Voice or
(800) 382-9467 Voice (Democratic or Republican)
(317) 232-0404 TDD
(800) 548-9517 Voice/TDD

General tips on communicating


  • identify clearly the subject or subjects in which you are interested, not just House and Senate bill numbers. Bill numbers are often confused, and the legislator may be more familiar with the content than the number.
  • state why you are concerned about an issue or issues. Your own personal experience is excellent supporting evidence. Explain how you think an issue will affect your business, profession, community or family.
  • restrict yourself to one, or at most, two topics.
  • concentrate your arguments and avoid rambling.. put your thoughts in your own words. If a legislator receives many letters with exactly the same or nearly identical language, he or she may discount them as part of an organized pressure campaign.
  • try to establish a relationship with your own representative and senator. In general, you'll have more influence as a constituent.
  • communicate while legislation is being considered by committees as well as when it is on the House or Senate floor. Your legislator can keep you abreast of when committees are meeting and when floor votes are expected.
  • find out the committees where your legislators serve. Members of the Indiana General Assembly have much more influence over legislation within their committee's jurisdiction.


  • threaten a legislator with the prospect of "not voting for him or her again." Present the best arguments in favor of your position and ask for their consideration.
  • pretend to wield vast political influence. Write or call your legislator as an individual constituent, not as a self-appointed spokesperson for your neighborhood, community or industry organization. If you DO represent such a group, be sure to mention it, however.
  • use trite phrases or cliches in your written or verbal correspondence. They can make your communication sound mass-produced.
  • become a pen pal. Some legislators won't bother to read correspondence from seemingly tireless letter-writing constituents.

(From the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce)

Helpful publications

The Indiana State Chamber of Commerce offers the following publications and provides bill tracking services to help you or your organization with legislative work. Please write to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, One North Capitol, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46204-2248; (317) 264-3310 for assistance, or to order any of the following publications:

How a Bill Becomes a Law in Indiana
This pamphlet describes the legislative process and how bills pass or fail. ($.25)

Here is Your Indiana Government
Here is a comprehensive book describing all aspects of state and local government. ($5)

Indiana Legislative Roster
A roster of all legislators, with addresses and phone numbers, and a map of districts is found in this handy brochure. ($.25)

Indiana Legislative Directory
This directory includes the information in the Legislative Roster, as well as brief biographical information and photos useful for identifying legislators for lobbying purposes. (Call for price).

The following publications may be found in your public library, or may be ordered by mail:

Congressional Directory
Biographies of each member of Congress, committee assignments, maps of the nation's congressional districts, and a listing of all federal departments and agencies make up this excellent reference tool.

The Almanac of American Politics and Politics in America
These reference books contain profiles of each Senator, Representative and Governor and voting records on key issues. Both books are available at most libraries and bookstores..The following publications may be ordered by mail:

How to Work Effectively with State Legislators
Discussing how to begin and carry out a legislative program from pre-session planning to post-session evaluation is simplified in this booklet. For a copy write to: The American Society of Association Executives, 1575 Eye Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. ($5)

The U.S. Congress Handbook
This annual guide to Congress includes members' pictures, biographies and information on Cabinet officers. For a copy please write to: P.O. Box 566, McLean, VA 22101. ($5.95)

Tell it To Washington
An excellent guide for citizen action, including the Congressional Directory is at your fingertips. To order a copy please write to: League of Women Voters of the united States, 1730 M Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036. Publication number 349. ($1)

Gavel to Gavel, A Guide to the Televised Proceedings of Congress
In video format, information on the televised proceeding of Congress; how a federal bill becomes a law; where to go for more information and a glossary of key congressional terms is expertly produced. For a copy please write or call: C-SPAN, Suite 412, 444 N. Capitol Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20001; (202) 737-3220.

League of Women Voters Catalogue
This listing of over 100 publications covers subjects such as political effectiveness, government information, election services, social policies and public relations. The costs vary from $.35 to $5.00, plus shipping. Write to League of Women Voters, 1730 M Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036.


Amendment - Any alteration to an original introduced bill proposed by either a committee or a legislator.

Chamber - Another word for House of Representatives of Senate. Also refers to the actual room where legislative action takes place.

Citizen legislature - Indiana's General Assembly is classified as a citizen legislature. Lawmaking is not a full-time profession for the state's legislators. The most common occupations of Indiana legislators are attorneys, teachers, business owners and farmers.

Conference committee - In order for a bill to become law, it must be passed by both the House and Senate in the same form. If amendments are added to a bill in the second house and passed, a conference committee consisting of members of both houses is appointed to resolve the differences. If the conferees reach a compromise, the chambers vote whether to accept the conference committee's decision. Generally, conference committees are comprised of two legislators from each chamber appointed by the president Pro Tempore of the senate and the Speaker of the House. If the committee is unable to reach a compromise, the bill dies.

Enacted - A bill is enacted when it is signed into law by the governor.

Engrossed bill - After a bill has passed second reading it is "ordered to engrossment," or authenticated as the correct and genuine bill to be considered on third reading.

Enrolled act - After a bill has passed both houses in the same form, it is considered an enrolled act and ready for consideration by the governor.

First reading - When a bill is introduced, it is read for the first time and then referred to a standing committee to be considered.

First regular session or long session - The first session of every new General Assembly can last up to 61 working (session) days. Beginning in early January, this session cannot extend beyond April 30. Occurring in odd-numbered years, the first regular session is often called the "long session" due to the legislative approval process of Indiana's biennial budget.

General assembly - This refers to the joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives during two consecutive years. General Assembly is also used as a synonym for the combined houses of the Indiana legislature. Germane - Committee action and amendments to a bill must be germane (relevant) to the subject matter of the original bill in which it is inserted. Amendments or committee action ruled not germane are disregarded and do not receive consideration by the House and Senate.

Interim study committees - Meeting during the months between sessions (interim), these committees study relevant issues and recommend legislation, if the committee members deem necessary. The subjects are often suggested by legislators in the form of resolutions, but the committees are created by the Legislative Council.

Legislative council - Comprised of 16 legislators, this body was created by the General Assembly to coordinate the study of relevant issues between sessions and to recommend legislation for upcoming sessions.

Legislative Services Agency (LSA) - A non-partisan state agency whose duties include bill drafting, research, code revision and fiscal, budgetary, and management analysis. Employees of LSA assist interim and standing committees as well.

Promulgation - This term refers to the preparation of the rules and regulations under which a law shall be enforced. Normally, the agency responsible for the law's enforcement writes the rules and regulations.

Resolution - Generally used for congratulatory or honorary purposes, resolutions are introduced and voted upon by the Senate or House of Representatives. Although they do not have the force of law when passed, resolutions can also suggest possible subjects for study in interim study committees or recommend future legislation. Most resolutions are considered symbolic and, when passed, denote the approval of the subject matter by the legislative body. Joint resolutions can also be introduced and considered by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Roll call - This refers to the voting procedure. Before electronic voting machines were installed in the House and Senate chambers, a clerk would read the roll call and the legislators would register their decisions by voice votes. Today, an electronic board lists the names of the legislators. Individual votes are registered when legislators select "aye" or "nay" votes via buttons on their desks.

Second reading - After the bill has been printed adding any amendments proposed by the standing committee, it is eligible for second reading. Legislators are allowed to offer amendments to the bill at this time.

Second regular session or short session - Occurring in even-numbered years, the second regular session ("short session") can extend for up to 30 working (session) days, but not beyond March 15.

Session day - A session day constitutes a working day for the Indiana Senate and House of Representatives. Not necessarily consecutive calendar days, legislators may recess for varying periods of time between working days. It should also be noted that, under certain circumstances, a session day may span more than one calendar day.

Special session - A special session may be called by the governor if he or she feels "the public welfare shall require" such a meeting of the legislature. A special session is limited to 30 session days during a period of 40 calendar days.

Standing committees - These committees consider bills after they have been introduced. The committees, which exist in both houses of the legislature, cover specific fields of interest such as agriculture, education, labor, public health and the judiciary. Committee meetings are open to the public so that interested members of the public and affected organizations can offer arguments for or against proposed legislation.

Stripping a bill - Occasionally, the original contents of a bill are taken out and replaced with new language. This can be done in committee or by amendment. This procedure is only allowed, however, if the new contents are relevant to the original subject matter of the bill.

Third reading - This refers to the point at which a bill undergoes final passage or rejection by a roll call vote of the members of the House. A floor debate to discuss the merits of the legislation generally precedes the final vote.

Veto - After a bill has been passed by both houses in the same form, it is eligible to go to the governor to be signed into law. If the governor rejects the bill, he or she issues a veto. A vetoed bill can be overridden by a constitutional majority in both houses.