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Click here for a detailed explaination of the steps of a bill through the legislative process.

Information for MDN's database of bills is displayed in five lines,

  1. Bill: This line will begin with an asterisk (*) if the bill has been designated by MDN's director as a major bill. Next is the bill bill form followed by the bill number.

    The form will begin with any substitutes approved by a chamber or by a committee (HCS, SCS, HS or SS) -- in recent years House rules have prohibited subsitutes offered during chamber debate (HS). Next will be the bill type (HB, SB, HJR or SJR).

    Note, MDN's database does not include chamber resolutions or General Assembly concurrent resolutions (HR, SR, HCR, SCR). Except in rare occasions, these resolutions have no real legal effect. Instead they just seek to express legislative opinion on a subject.

    There are an occasional worthy of news coverage, but the time time it would take to read hundreds of resolutions to find a rare gem is not work the effort.

  2. Sponsor: Only the primary sponsor is listed, with a link to that member's MDN page. Bills can have a long list of co-sponsors or co-signers, but they have no control over the bill.

    When a bill clears a chamber, the sponsor will pick a bill handler to handle his/her bill in the second chamber. But this is not a particularly formally position.

  3. Status: This is current status of a bill such as the committee to which a bill has been assigned, calendar placement, passage to the governor, placement on the ballot, etc.

    Prior to third reading (a chamber's final vote on a particular version of the bill), the bill must clear the chamber's budget oversight committee that reviews the financial costs or benefits to government from the bill.

    If the bill is on the third-reading calendar, but has not cleared the chamber's budget control committee, the status field for the bill will include (In Budget)

    See below for a detailed flow-chart of the path of a bill or joint resolution to clear the legislature.

    Note, MDN will not identify assignment of a bill to a committee of the chamber of introduction if the assignment is too late for passage -- the fate of many bills in the House. Because committee assignment effectively is meaningless, the status will remain H 2nd Read.

  4. Description: This is a short description of the bill written by MDN's director, Phill Brooks (who has covered the Missouri General Assembly for one-half century). Bills are NOT entered into MDN's database until Phill has had the opportunity to read the bill.

    The description focuses on the most significant and/or news worthy aspect of the bill. Amendments added to a bill that include unrelated subjects may not be included in the description unless the bill clears the legislature.

    Because of the recent trend of the legislature to attach completely unrelated aspects to a bill, it is impossible to provide a description of every component that may have been attached. Do a search of 2019 bills for the word unrelated to understand how frequent this trend has become.

    Many of these amendments are in clear violation of a clearly worded state Supreme Court decision that bills had to be limited to a single topic.

  5. See: This will include links to more information about the bill in the following order:
    1. A list of any chamber roll calls that were taken on the bill. MDN's roll call database is limited to significant or news worthy votes.

    2. A link to fiscal notes written by staff of a joint legislative committee (Legislative Oversight) that deals with state financial issues. A fiscal note reflects the estimate of that staff as to the financial impact to state and local government.

      Besides the financial impact, a fiscal note can provide a far more detailed description about the bill independent of the description written by the staff of the chamber of the bill's introduction.

      It may take some time before a fiscal note is written. In fact, no fiscal note may be written for a bill that is going nowhere.

      Unfortunately, after the 2019 legislative session, Legislative Oversight abandoned it's web site which contained the list fiscal notes written for a bill. This MDN's fiscal-note link covering years of legislation has been abandoned by Legislative Oversight.

      It's a challenge for MDN to address before the 2020 legislative session.

    3. The official legislative page for the bill. This will include links to fiscal notes, House/Senate staff descriptions of the bill and links to journal entries on bill actions.

    Legislative Steps

    While there eight types of measures before the legislature, this description will use the generic term bill (although some are resolutions).

    Except for single chamber resolutions (HR or SR) the other forms bills (HB or SB), joint resolutions (HJR or SJR) and concurrent resolutions (HCR or SCR) must follow the steps listed below:

    Missouri's Constitution requires that the short "title" of a bill be read on three seperate days in each chamber. That imposes a minimum five day limit for a bill, since after third reading in the chamber or origin, the second chamber can first read the bill on the same day (if it's in session and the first chamber delivered the bill to the second chamber).

    First and second reading are formalities, but third reading is when the chamber votes on the bill to send it to (or back to) the other chamber.

    So, here is a list of the most complicated process a bill can take:

    • 1st Reading: This is just a formality when the bill is introduced in a chamber. Just the title is read in a full-chamber session.

    • 2nd Reading: Like 1st reading, this is a formality in which just the title of the bill is read in a full-chamber session.

    • Committee Assignment: In the Senate, a bill immediately is assigned to committee after 2nd reading, but in the House some bills will not get assigned to committee until the final days of the session.

    • Committee Hearing and Vote: It's up to the committee chair to determine when, if ever, the committee holds a public hearing and then a vote on the bill. Usually, a committee will not vote on a bill on the same day as the hearing.

      In addition, it's also up to the chair to decide when, if ever, a bill approved by the committee is reported to the full chamber for further action.

      It's extremely rare, but a committee chair can kill a bill approved by the committee. Sometimes it's because the chair does not support the bill, but more often it's because of pressure from the leadership because the bill would be too divisive for chamber debate or the leadership doesn't like the bill.

      A committee can vote "do not pass," but that triggers a more complicated process this flow chart will not address since it rarely happens. If the committee wants to kill the bill, the chair simply won't bring the bill up for a vote.

    • Perfection: When a bill is reported out of committee, it's put at the bottom of what's called a perfection calendar.

      Perfection is a fancy title to indicate it's the process to "prefect" the bill with amendments or substitutes (although House rules no prohibit substitutes being offered during chamber perfection.

      Perfection requires just a simple majority (50 percent plus one of the members voting) and often is done with just a voice vote.

    • 3rd Reading: Third reading is the final vote a chamber takes on a bill before sending it to the other chamber. Third reading requires what's termed a "consitutional majority" of more than half of the legislative seats (meaning 82 votes in the House or 18 in the Senate).

      Prior to an actual third reading vote, the bill must be cleared by a budget control committee that evaluates the cost of the bill to government. In recent years, approval has been almost routine, but occasionally a bill will get blocked by a House or Senate budget-controll commmitee

      The constitution actually requires a majority of elected members, suggesting a smaller vote might be required depending on vacancies. But for decades legislative leaders have determined a "constitutional majority" requires a majority of the seats, not members.

    • Other Chamber: After a bill clears the chamber of origin, it faces the same initial steps as in the chamber of origin -- first reading, second reading and then committee assignment, hearing and vote.

      In the second chamber, there is no perfection stage, a bill that clears the second chamber committee goes immediately to a third reading calendar for bills bills from the other chamber.

    • Second Chamber Third Reading: 3rd reading in the second chamber is a compressed process of perfection and 3rd reading in the first chamber.

      Amendments and subsitutes (in the Senate only) can be offered before the final third reading vote that requires a constitutional majority.

      If the second chamber has made not even one-letter change to the original chamber's version, the measure clears the legislature.

    • Back to the Original Chamber: Here the process becomes more complicated and avoids the tedious process of first and second readings. Instead, the measure can clear the legislature with a motion unrestricted by a calendar placement.

      One option is for the original chamber to simply accept the second chamber's version, which requires a 3rd reading vote to clear the legislature.

      A second option is to send the measure to a House-Senate conference committee to work out the difference between the two chambers. That conference committee substitute will require a constitutional majority vote of both chambers to clear the legislature.

      The third option is a gridlock. Occasionally a chamber will refuse to accept a motion to put the issue before a conference committee, a chamber will reject a conference committee compromise or the conference committee cannot reach an agreement.

      In those cases, passage requires one of the chambers to accept and third read (with a constitutional majority) the version passed by the other chamber.

    • What's Next: What happens next to a bill that has cleared legislature depends on a couple of factors.

      If it is a joint resolution that amends the constitution, it requires statewide voter approval to become part of the constitution. The only power a governor has over a constitutional amendment is to select the ballot upon which it will appear.

      Normally a bill requires approval by the governor. But that can be avoided with a provision in the bill to submit the measure to the voters. In that case, like a joint resolution, the only power a governor has the ballot upon which the measure will appear.

    • Governor's Veto or Signing of a bill: Like the federal system, if a governor signs bill, it becomes law.

      If he vetoes the bill, that bill will be subject to an over-ride by the legislature, which requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber. Unless the bill was vetoed early in the legislative session, it will come before a short session in the fall to deal with gubernatorial vetoes.

      But Missouri differs from the federal system if the governor refuses to sign or veto a bill. Under the federal system, failure to sign is called a "pocket veto" -- meaning failure to sign has the same effect as a veto.

      But in Missouri, you could call it a "pocket signature." If a governor refuses to act on a bill, it automatically becomes law. That's happened less than two dozen times in more than three decades.