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Massachusetts State Legislative Process

  1. An idea is introduced. A bill is filed (or refiled) in the House/Senate by a sponsor. Any additional supporters are called cosponsors. Each legislative session is two years long and lasts from January of an odd year to July of the next even year.
  2. Committee hearing. Each bill is assigned to a committee and must have a public hearing. Afterward, the committee goes into executive session to vote on how to report the bill — favorable or send to study.
  3. Ways and Means (House and Senate). Any bill that impacts state finances will come to the Committee on Ways and Means. They may make amendments to the bill, combine bills, or do nothing. They then make a recommendation on the bill in the form of a report.
  4. Floor report. A bill is sent to the floor to be debated and possibly amended before a vote. If the bill is approved, it moves on to the next branch to repeat steps 3 and 4.
  5. Conference committee. If the House and Senate pass different versions of the same legislation, three members from each branch are designated to agree on one version. When a final version is reached, both branches vote to send the bill to the Governor's desk.
  6. Governor's desk. The Governor has 10 days to sign a bill, veto it, or return it with changes. If a bill does not reach this stage, it can be refiled next session.

Questions about this process? Email Sarah Mills, Government Relations Specialist, at