Capitol dome in Charleston, WV

West Virginia Legislative Process

Classes:
Introduction > Legislative Process > Policy Making > Committee System > Bill Becomes Law > Take the Test > Resources


Guide > During Session > Senate Committees > House Committees > Joint Committees

During Session

Upon a bill's introduction before the full membership of either the Senate or House of Delegates, the bill is referred to a specific committee for consideration and recommendations. For example, a bill which would change the criminal penalties for bank robbery likely would be referred to the judiciary committee. Many times, a bill which may affect more than one specific area of concern is given multiple committee references, in which case each of the involved committees considers the bill before sending it on to the next committee. For example, a bill which would appropriate, or designate, funds for computers in our state's public schools likely would be considered by both the education and finance committees.

Committee action

When a committee is considering a bill during a legislative session, which may include public hearings and expert testimony, it may choose one of several courses of action.

The committee may:

In most cases, the full membership of a legislative body follows the recommendations of the reporting committees, but the Senate and the House may overrule the committees and choose their own courses of action on the measures in question.

Chair's authority

The chair of each committee sets the agenda--or scheduled calendar--of issues and bills to be addressed by the committee, including adding and/or removing items at will. For the most part, the chair's authority is absolute when setting the committee's agenda, though the committee may overrule the chair by a two-thirds vote of the committee members present.

Originated bills

Sometimes a committee decides to support an issue or cause by drafting its own bill to place before the Legislature for consideration. These bills are said to have originated in committee. A bill which originates from a committee is often the result of work by that committee--or a member of that committee--either during session or during the period between regular sessions.

Further action

When bills are reported to the full membership with one of the "do pass" or neutral recommendations, they proceed in the legislative process to first reading (the formal announcement that the bill is to be considered), then to second reading (for consideration of amendments, if necessary), and then to third reading (for a vote on its passage).

Upon passage by one of the legislative bodies, bills are then sent to the other body for its consideration using the same procedure.

"Same as" bills

Many times, in order to expedite the legislative process, identical bills are introduced in both the Senate and House of Delegates. Known as "same as" bills, these measures are assigned separate Senate and House reference numbers and proceed through the normal legislative process within their respective bodies.

After both bodies pass their respective versions of a "same as" bill, any differences between the two versions are resolved before the bill becomes law. The Legislature may adopt either the Senate or House version of the "same as" bill, or it may adopt a combination of the two versions.

This procedure allows both bodies to work simultaneously on bills of importance to the whole Legislature, such as bills introduced at Governor's request.

During The Interims

Approximately once a month during the period between regular sessions--the interim--the Legislature gathers in Charleston (or another location in the state) for three days of committee meetings.

The interim committees usually are joint committees, with members of both the Senate and House of Delegates working together as single groups. For example, the Joint Government Organization Committee is made up of members of both the Senate's government organization committee and its House of Delegates' counterpart.

The interim committees' primary purpose is to provide a forum for the continuing study of issues relevant to the future of the state. During each interim gathering, members discuss and hear public comment on issues which may be addressed during an upcoming regular session. The joint nature of these interim committees allows members of the Senate and House of Delegates to consider issues and legislation which may affect both bodies in a similar manner.

Many times, bills to be introduced during the next regular session are drafted. studied and rewritten long before the session begins. Also, bills that did not pass during the previous session may be revisited during the interim period for reworking.

Some bills previously rejected by the Legislature still need some fine-tuning before the Legislature passes them into law. Hence, the interims allow for reconsideration, reworking and possible reintroduction at the next formal gathering of the Legislature.

The interim meetings also allow the Legislature to monitor the effects of current and recently-passed legislation. For example, if a bill has passed which alters the state's environmental policies, an interim committee may be assigned to study its continuing effects on the state's economy, our citizens' health, and other related issues.

Oversight/investigative

Besides the joint standing committees, the Legislature has two other types of interim committees: oversight and investigative.

Oversight committees oversee the general operations of certain state agencies. Officials from those agencies and other invited guests update the interim committee members on the progress of programs, fiscal responsibilities and other issues.

Investigative committees are formed during the regular session by the adoption of resolutions or by specific language included within a piece of legislation passed during the session. Their purpose is to study specific issues as required by those resolutions or bills and report their findings back to the Legislature.

Citizen members

Legislators are not the only citizens to serve on interim committees. State agency officials and private citizens with specific knowledge and experience in areas of concern often are appointed to serve on committees relevant to their field of expertise. These citizen members are appointed to serve by either the Governor, the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House.

Public Access

Other than executive sessions-designated closed meetings-all committee meetings and hearings are open to the public.

In addition, citizens may request to speak at scheduled public hearings as well as request that public hearings be held on particular issues and bills.

For more information on attending and/or participating in committee meetings and public hearings, contact your representatives in the Legislature or the Legislature's Reference & Information Center at 800-642-8650 (in West Virginia) or 304-347-4836.


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