No doubt many baby boomers remember “Bill” of Schoolhouse Rock and the catchy tune that taught kids how a bill becomes a law in Congress.
The basic idea is the same in New Jersey, but it’s more complicated than Bill made it out to be in the mid-1970s. New Jersey’s legislative process is governed by more than 60 pages of rules for each of the two houses — the Assembly and the Senate. And there are some political realities that usually aren’t taught — at least not to impressionable children — that can affect what happens in the real world.
What follows are the basic steps of how a bill becomes a law here in the Garden State.
Draft: A legislator with an idea for a new law he or she would like the state to follow, or to change an existing law, asks the staff at the Office of Legislative Services to draft it into a bill. These ideas can be the lawmaker’s own, come from constituents or the governor, or are often suggested by lobbyists or public interest groups. Sometimes they come readymade as drafts from national groups. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council has dozens of model bills it suggests members introduce in their home states.