Paying attention to the legislative session can be difficult and downright confusing, but seeing a bill become law is as easy as playing Chutes and Ladders.
Chutes and Ladders is a children’s board game where you start at the bottom and work your way to the top by rolling dice. Depending on the number you roll you can land on a ladder that bumps you up a few levels or land on a chute, which slides you down a few levels.
The legislative process, or how a bill becomes law, is similar, only you don’t roll dice. Through each step a bill either passes and climbs the ladder toward becoming a law or takes a slide and has to start over.
The Utah State Legislature has created a citizen’s guide to show how a bill becomes a law. Consider a bill that was in the Utah legislature last year, House Bill 210, Animal Cruelty Amendments.
The feral animal bill, if passed, would have allowed for people to shoot feral animals in rural areas. The bill was highly criticized and received national comedic attention from “The Colbert Report” for its suggested treatment of animals.
After the bill was was written and submitted it was introduced to the Utah House of Representatives, where it was read and then assigned to a rules committee that was in charge of deciding if it should be presented to the Utah House and what should be changed within it.
Following the rules committee the bill was introduced to the entire Utah House, where it was debated, substituted, amended and voted on, and in the case of the feral animal bill, approved and sent on to the Utah Senate.
After the feral animal bill was passed in the Utah House, it started the process over again in the Utah Senate. The bill, however, was voted down in the Utah Senate and was sent back to the beginning.
One important detail to remember is that at anytime during this process the bill can be rejected and, just like in Chutes and Ladders, sent back to the beginning.
Rep Chris Herrod, R-Provo explained why it can take so long to get a bill passed.
“It is much easier to kill a bill than to get it passed,” Herrod said. “We find, through the [legislative] process, that there is another way to get what we need accomplished.”
Had the bill been allowed to continue it would have followed a similar path in the Senate that it did in the House. It would have been assigned to a rules committee that would have changed it and then presented to the Utah Senate and eventually voted on.
If it passed, it would then be signed by the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, then submitted to a separate office that would analyze the bill and make any necessary changes. Then it would be returned to the Utah House to accept the changes and only then would it be submitted to the governor to sign into law.
The legislative process is slow and cumbersome, as it was designed to be, to prevent bills that are unconstitutional or ethically wrong from becoming laws.
When trying to follow a particular one just remember that it is all a game of Chutes and Ladders, and in order for a bill to become a law it has climb all the ladders and survive all the chutes.