Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Law Library

Arizona Legislative Process

Laws are enacted in Arizona by the legislature and by direct democracy through initiatives and referenda. As stated in the Arizona Constitution, “the legislative authority of the state shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and a house of representatives, but the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature; and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature.” (Ariz. Const. art. IV, part 1, §1). 

The Arizona legislature consists of a Senate and a House of Representatives. Each legislature lasts two years and consists of a first regular session and a second regular session. Regular sessions begin the second Monday in January and generally last 100 days. Either the legislature or the Governor may call special sessions. In special sessions called by the Governor, the legislature may only consider matters specified by the Governor. There is no such limitation for special sessions called by the legislature. 

Bills are prepared for introduction by the Arizona Legislative Council, who may also draft the bill upon request. Bills are drafted in accordance with The Arizona Legislative Bill Drafting Manual, which is available on the Council’s web site at The Legislative Council is a joint legislative committee with members from both the House and the Senate and a professional staff. The Council is responsible for making sure each bill is in proper form, for knowing how each bill will affect other statutes, and for making a determination of whether each bill is constitutional. The Legislative Council also checks bills for compliance with the constitutional requirement that each act cover one subject only and that the title of each act express that subject. (Ariz. Const. art. IV, part 2, §13)  Before a bill is introduced, the Council will attach the official title to the bill and assign it a short title. When a bill is amending existing legislation, they will indicate new language by all caps and deleted language by strike-through. 

In the House, bills must be introduced in the first 29 days of a regular session and the first 10 days of a special session. In the Senate, bills must be introduced in the first 22 days of a regular session and the first 10 days of a special session. In both the House and the Senate, Rules Committee approval is needed to introduce bills after the deadline. Bills may also be pre-filed before the legislative session begins. 

Bills are introduced by a member of the House (for House bills) or a member of the Senate (for Senate bills), although they may be initiated from other sources. When a bill is introduced, it is placed in a box called the “hopper” in the office of the Clerk of the House or the Secretary of the Senate. The bill is then given a bill number. The numbering of Senate bills starts at 1001, and the numbering of House bills starts at 2001. The numbering is retained throughout the session.
Once introduced, bills are put on the calendar for a first reading. The Arizona Constitution requires that each bill have three readings, which means that each bill must be read in the chamber in its entirety on three separate days. (Ariz Const. art IV, part 2, §12) To speed things along, there is an exception to the three readings requirement for emergencies. In the House, bills are referred to committee at the first reading, and second reading occurs before the bill is considered by the Committee of the Whole. In the Senate, bills are referred to committee at either the first or second reading. All bills must be sent to at least one standing committee in addition to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee is a standing committee in both the House and the Senate that must approve each bill, determining whether the bill and any amendments are constitutional and in proper form. The Rules Committee must also make sure that any proposed amendments are on the same subject as the original bill and its title. The Rules Committee may propose an amendment to a bill to correct any deficiencies.
Standing committees hold meetings at regularly scheduled times and may hold additional, special meetings. An agenda is prepared for each committee meeting and lists all bills to be considered that day. Only bills listed on the agenda may be discussed on that particular day. Fact sheets or bill summaries are usually prepared and distributed to committee members by committee staff. There may or may not be hearings on bills considered by the committee. Committees may propose amendments to bills, but these amendments are not incorporated into the bill at this time. Amendments are kept separate until they are approved by the Committee of the Whole. If a bill receives a positive vote by a majority of the committee, it is sent to the chamber with a “do pass” recommendation. The committee staff prepares written minutes of each meeting.
Amendments may be added to a bill by a committee, by the Committee of the Whole, or by a conference committee. One type of amendment is a “strike everything after the enacting clause” amendment, or “striker,” which may only be proposed by a standing committee. Strikers are total replacements of the text of the bill where everything is stricken after the enactment clause - “Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona.” Strikers may be on an entirely different subject than the text that is deleted. Legislators use strikers to get around deadlines for introducing bills and to revive bills that have died. Strikers have a more extended notice period than other amendments.
Once out of committee, bills go on the calendar of the Committee of the Whole. A bill may be placed on the Active Calendar of the Committee of the Whole so that the Committee of the Whole may debate the bill, propose floor amendments, and vote on whether the bill should go to third reading. Alternatively, an unamended bill may be placed on the Consent Calendar where it will bypass the Committee of the Whole and go directly to third reading. Before a bill receives its third reading, it is sent to the Legislative Council to become an “engrossed” bill. At this point, approved amendments are incorporated into the bill. Once a bill has been engrossed, it may no longer be amended or debated in that chamber. 
After a bill receives its third reading, it is subject to an electronic roll call vote. If the bill fails to pass, it can be revived by a motion to reconsider if the motion is made the day of the vote or the next day by a legislator who voted against the bill. Once a bill has cleared its first chamber, it is sent to the other chamber where the whole process is repeated. When a bill passes the second chamber without amendment, it is sent to the Governor. When a bill passes the second chamber with an amendment and the originating chamber agrees to the amendment, the bill is sent to the Governor. Otherwise, when the House and Senate do not agree on the language of a bill, it is sent to a conference committee, and the conference committee will send an amended bill with a conference committee report to each chamber for a vote. If the amended bill is approved by both chambers, it is sent to the Governor.
The Governor has five days to act on a bill if the legislature is in session or ten days to act if the legislature has adjourned. The Governor may sign the bill, allow it to become law without signature, or veto it. If a bill is vetoed and the legislature is still in session, the House and Senate may override the veto by a 2/3 vote. When a bill is vetoed after the legislature has adjourned, the bill dies. Upon receiving the Governor’s signature, a bill is sent to the Secretary of State where it becomes an act, receives a chapter number for publication in the Arizona session laws, and is codified into the Arizona Revised Statutes. The new law takes effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns, or immediately if it is an emergency bill. 

Direct Legislation
Direct legislation in Arizona consists of initiatives and referendums. Initiatives are proposed changes to Arizona statutes or Constitution that must be approved by Arizona voters. For an initiative to be placed on the ballot, a petition containing the text of the proposed measure and the signatures of Arizona registered voters totaling at least 10% of the number of votes cast at the most recent gubernatorial election (15% for constitutional amendments) must be filed with the Secretary of State at least four months before the general election. The Secretary of State and county recorders verify the petitions before placing the measure on the ballot. All registered Arizona voters receive publicity pamphlets that have the text of initiatives and referenda, an impartial analysis provided by the Legislative Council, arguments for and against the proposal that have been submitted to the Secretary of State, and a fiscal impact statement. If an initiative wins the approval of a majority of the voters in the general election, it becomes effective when the election results are proclaimed by the Governor.

Referenda are attempts by the voters to block legislation enacted in the most recent legislative session. Laws “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or for the support and maintenance of the departments of the state government and state institutions” are not subject to referenda. (Ariz. Const. art IV, part 1, §1) Referenda proposers have 90 days after the adjournment of the session where the legislation was enacted to file their petitions. This is why new legislation is not effective until 90 days after the legislature adjourns. The petition must have the signature of Arizona registered voters totaling at least 5% of the voters of the last gubernatorial election. After the petition is successfully filed with the Secretary of State, the new legislation is put on hold until it is approved by the majority of voters in the next general election and the election results are proclaimed by the Governor. Referenda may also be submitted to the electorate by the legislature for their approval or disapproval of new legislation, and all Arizona constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature must be approved by the voters.

In 1998, by initiative, the Arizona Constitution was amended to declare that the Governor may not veto successful referenda and initiatives and that these may not be repealed or amended by the legislature unless the amendment furthers the purposes of the initiative or referendum and is approved by a ¾ vote in each chamber. (Ariz. Const. art IV, part 1, §1) Because this provision was added to the Constitution in 1998, it only affects initiatives and referenda after that date.


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