How Bills Become Laws in Nebraska

Ever wonder the steps required for an introduced bill to become a Nebraska law? We’ve got a quick explanation below. We hope to empower Nebraskans to be active observers and even participants in the process!

Unicameral 101: How Bills Move through the Lawmaking Process

An Idea Becomes Introduced Text

Each Senator has 10 days from the start of the session to introduce as many bills as they would like. The deadline this year was Jan. 23, so all the bills that will be considered in this session have been introduced. You can find them all on the Nebraska Legislature website.

Bill Gets Assigned to a Committee

The Reference Committee assigns each bill to one of the Standing Committees.

Bill Gets a Hearing

Every bill gets a public hearing at the committee level. You can see the schedule for hearings on the Nebraska Legislature website. (The weekly schedule even has a handy “Add to Calendar” button.) You can watch hearings live or on-demand via NET.

Committee Considers the Bill

You can attend committee hearings in person (the calendar has location information) and optionally participate to support or oppose the bill.

You can also express support or opposition to a bill (while it’s in committee) by submitting written testimony to the committee chair.

If you are not testifying in person on a bill and would like to submit a written position letter to be included in the official hearing record as an exhibit, the letter must be delivered to the office of the committee chair (or emailed to the committee chair) of the committee conducting the hearing on the bill by 5:00 p.m. on the last work day prior to the public hearing.

Additionally, the letter must include your name and address, state a position of for, against, or neutral on the bill in question and include a request for the letter to be included as part of the public hearing record.

from the Nebraska Legislature website

The committee hears testimony about the bill and then can vote to:

  • indefinitely postpone the bill (“IPP” in the graphic below), effectively “killing the bill” as it won’t advance to general file this session; or
  • take no action; or
  • amend the bill; or
  • advance the bill to general file, meaning that all senators will vote on it.

(To be clear, they can vote to advance without amending, or can amend and then advance, or even amend but not advance.)

Bill Gets to General File (and Possibly Floor Debate)

If the introduced and/or amended bill gets sent to general file by the committee, then it may or may not be debated and voted on by all the senators from across the state.

The speaker can decide to block the bill from floor debate, meaning no action is taken, or can advance the bill to floor debate.

Senators can offer floor amendments during discussion of a bill. Amendments to bills are voted upon separately. A bill will move to select file if at least 25 senators vote to advance it.

Bill Gets to Select File (and Possibly More Floor Debate)

Once at the select file stage, senators can continue floor debate before voting again to advance, or not advance, the bill.

Bill Gets to Final Reading

Final reading is usually non-controversial. The clerk reads the entire bill, or, if a bill is unusually lengthy, the senators may vote to dispense with reading the entire bill.

If, following the final reading, a majority of senators vote for the bill, the bill passes and then goes to the governor.

Bill Goes to the Governor

The governor has 5 working days to sign the bill, veto the bill, or let the bill pass without his signature. If the governor vetoes the bill, the legislature can override the governor’s veto with 30 votes.

Bill Becomes a Law

If a bill has an “emergency” clause, it becomes law immediately upon the governor’s signature. If not, a bill becomes law 90 days after the last day of the session.

Legislative Process: The Flowchart

Download this graphic as a PDF: Bill-to-Law Process

For even more info, see all of our Unicameral 101 posts, including a video explanation of how a bill becomes a law.

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