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Library Resource Guide for: RHODE ISLAND GOVERNMENT INFORMATION

Legislative Branch

Let's start at the Legislative Branch, which is the Rhode Island General Assembly. This branch is made up of the House of Representatives, which has 75 members, and the Senate, 38 members all together (For more information about legislators, search in the index list on each page). Their purpose is to make laws. Each chamber needs to approve of the law before it is sent off to the Governor for approved. It then becomes a Public Law, the law of the state. In addition to these types of laws, the General Assembly can pass Local Acts, which are laws of only a local or private nature, Resolutions, which express the will of the legislature and are not law, and Joint Resolutions, which are resolutions issued by both chambers of the State Assembly.

However, all of this is a long process. Let's look at each step and information available:

1) A bill is introduced.
2) A bill is then sent to a committee..
3) There is a debate and vote on the bill.
4) The Governor has the right to veto a bill.
5) The bill becomes a law.



1) A BILL IS INTRODUCED

A bill is only a draft of a law. It needs to be discussed and worked upon before it is voted on.


BILLS

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2) A BILL IS THEN SENT TO A COMMITTEE

A bill is then sent to a committee that the chamber elects to work specifically on a subject, e.g., Finance, Judiciary, Labor, etc. These committees are delegated to investigate, consider, report, and act on a introduced bill. In addition to House and Senate Committees, there are also Joint Committees that operate between the two chamber (Check the Legislative Session Information page for links to the committees) However, most work is separate, and each chamber does its own work.

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3) THERE IS A DEBATE AND VOTE ON THE BILL

There is a debate and vote on the bill. The bill can be either killed in the committee, or approved and sent out to the floor of the chamber with report for a vote. Here the bill is debated, amendments are proposed or the bill can even be sent back to committee for reconsideration. If the bill reaches a vote and is approved, it goes to the other chamber where a very similar process is followed for approval.

The Journal of the House of Representatives and Senate provides information on bills, such as what committee discussed it, floor amendments, when it was brought to a vote, and the vote.


JOURNAL (OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATE)

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4) THE GOVERNOR HAS THE RIGHT TO VETO A BILL

The Governor has the right to veto a bill. When our republic was established, the founders decided that there should be a system of "checks and balances," where each branch would be able to influence and stop the other so one does not get more control of the other. To this end, the Governor can veto or reject a bill. However, the bill can override the veto if it is approved of by two-thirds of the House.


VETOES IN JOURNALS

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5) THE BILL BECOMES A LAW

When the Governor signs the bill, it becomes a law. When the bill finally becomes a law or statute, it is put into Public Law of the State of Rhode Island , which is a chronological compliation of all law enacted annually. The General Laws is a compliation of all laws currently in effect by subject. The General Assembly can also pass Local Acts, Resolutions and Joint Resolutions.


PUBLIC LAWS OF THE STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS PASSED AT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

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STATE OF RHODE ISLAND GENERAL LAWS

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ACTS AND RESOLVES, PASSED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

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