How a Bill Becomes a Law in Washington State
The starting point for any bill is an idea! The idea can come from a
variety of sources, including members of the public, state agencies,
professional organizations, work groups, the governor, or a legislator.
Following collaboration between interested parties and staff to draft
the bill text, it must be introduced by a member of the state Senate or
House of Representatives.
A bill is considered officially filed when a copy has been delivered
to the Office of the Code Reviser via a wooden box known as the
The bill is then given a number and referred to the committee that best
fits the topic of the bill to be considered eligible for a public
hearing. Most bills that the WSMA engages on are sent to the legislative
health care committees.
Pro tip! HB and SB are shorthand for "House bill" and "Senate bill."
Once a bill moves into its respective committee, the chair of the
committee decides whether a public hearing will be held. Depending on
committee priorities and a range of other factors, some bills may never
be scheduled for a public hearing and are considered to "die" in
committee. Ultimately, the committee can pass, reject, or take no action
on a bill.
Following passage in its policy committee, a bill is either sent to:
The Senate Ways and Means or House Appropriations committee if the
bill has a potential fiscal impact for another public hearing.
Following the passage of the fiscal committee, the bill would then
be sent to the Rules Committee.
The Rules Committee if there is no fiscal impact. However, all bills
must pass through the Rules Committee before becoming eligible for
floor debate, as it is often referred to as the "gatekeeping
When a bill is referred to the Rules Committee, it will remain there
until a legislator on the Rules Committee "pulls" the bill in order to
place it on the floor calendar for consideration.
The entire chamber (either Senate or House) considers, debates, and may
amend the bill during floor action before being placed on the third
reading calendar for final passage.
After passing one chamber (known as its "house of origin"), the bill
goes through the same procedure in the other chamber.
If amendments are made in the other chamber, the differing versions of
the bill must be reconciled, as ultimately the bill must be approved by
the House and Senate in identical form.
When the bill is approved by both chambers, it is signed by the
respective leaders (the Speaker of the House and the president of the
Senate) and sent to the governor.
The governor signs the bill into law or may veto all or part of it. If
the governor fails to act on the bill, it may become law without a
check out this video
to see an overview of the legislative process in under five minutes! Learn
more about the legislative branch and its functions on the
Teach with TVW webpage.