Procedure For Making Public Bills | How a Bill Becomes a Law?
A public bill goes through three stages, namely, the first reading, second reading and third reading before it becomes an Act of Parliament or a law.
How Public Bills Become Law?
Step 1: First Reading
At the first reading, the sponsor of the bill formally introduces the bill to the House through a motion. An executive bill may be introduced through the House Majority Leader. At this stage no debate is permitted but the sponsor of the bill may just give a brief description of what the bill contains.
Step 2: Second Reading
If the bill receives approval on the first reading, it is read the second time at the next sitting. This is known as the second reading. The bill is debated, but the discussion is limited to its general principles.
At this stage, members of the House may attempt to amend the principles of the bill. If the House is satisfied with the bill, it goes to the third reading.
But controversial and very important bills like Appropriation Bills are usually referred to the Committee of the whole House while non-controversial bills may be referred to a special committee for consideration.
(a) Committee Stage
A special or standing committee comprises members selected from the political parties represented in the legislature in proportion to their strength in the House. The Committee studies the bill in detail and may take evidence from ministers or any other person that may throw light’on the bill. It may also organise public hearings on the subject.
On the other hand, all members of the house belong to the Committee of the Whole House. The committee, at its sitting, debates the bill and votes upon it clause by clause. The committee may make amendment to the clauses at this stage.
Debate in legislative committees is open and generally informal and a member may ask questions, receive answers and speak more than once. The committee stage is less formal than formal sessions of the House.
(b) Report Stage
At the report stage, the committee presents to the House a report of its debate and amendments made to the bill. The House discusses only the amendments made to the bill.
Step 3: Third Reading
The procedure is completed with the third reading. At this stage, the bill is brought to the House for a final reading and review in its final form. The sponsor of the bill moves that the bill be read the third time. If the motion is carried, the bill becomes an Act meaning parliament has acted. It is then sent to the president or monarch for his assent.
In democratic state with two Houses, a bill has to be separately considered by each of the two houses. If the bill is approved by both houses, it is sent to the President for assent.
But if the two houses disagreed on certain clauses of the bill, then a joint sitting of few members selected on equal basis from the two House is convened to resolve the differences.
Where the committee fails to resolve such differences, then the bill is presented to the House (‘National Assembly’ as they are mostly called) sitting at a joint meeting, and if the bill is passed at such joint meeting, it is presented to the president for assent.
Section 59 (4) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, for example, provides that:
In other words, the Legislative bodies can pass into law a bill which the president refuses to assent to.