The following is a step-by-step guide to the legislative process by which a bill becomes a law in the Maryland General Assembly that includes ways your organization can provide input at every stage.
Prefiling A Bill
If you are interested in advancing a bill before the legislative session begins, consider encouraging the sponsor of the legislation to prefile it. This means that the bill will be filed for introduction for the General Assembly ahead of the start of the legislative session. It is beneficial for a bill to be prefiled because passage is more likely the earlier a bill is introduced. The prefiling deadline is typically in mid-November.
Once a bill is assigned to a committee during the legislative session, it will be important for advocates to identify committee members and leadership for lobbying, as the fate of bills are often decided at this stage. Committee chairs decide if the bill will be voted on or not on the assembly floor. Communicate with committee members early and often on why you support the bill, especially those in your district, with a letter of support, phone call, or meeting.
Testifying at a Public Hearing
One of the most effective ways to communicate your support or opposition for a proposed bill is to provide oral and/or written testimony for its public committee hearing. The Department of Legislative Services will issue a hearing schedule weekly you can track.
To be able to testify for a bill, you must make a MyMGA account. Once signed in, you may choose the bill or bills you would like to testify for on the Witness Signup page, where you will indicate your position and whether you are submitting a written or oral testimony, or both.
Submitting Testimony for the Senate: As of February 14, 2022, when the Maryland Senate moved to return to in-person hearings, you may only submit testimony one business day before a hearing after 4:00 PM until the morning of the hearing at 10:00 AM.
Submitting Testimony for the House: The Maryland House is continuing to hold hearings virtually. You may submit testimony at least two business days ahead of a bill’s hearing between 8:00 AM – 3:00 PM.
After committee members’ positions on the bill are recorded, if approved, it will be sent back to the chamber of origin’s floor for a second reading, where delegates or senators may vote on their approval of the committee’s amendments. After this step, the bill will be presented for a third reading, where no further amendments may be proposed. The bill is then voted on and must have approval by a majority of the elective membership to pass. Identify members of the chamber known to be in opposition or unsure of their position, especially those in your district, to contact before the vote. If the bill passes, it will be sent to the opposite chamber’s floor for consideration.
After committee review and a second and third reading on the floor, the bill will be voted on in the second chamber. Identify again members of the chamber known to be in opposition or unsure of their position on the bill you would like to see passed, especially those in your district, to contact before the vote. If not amended in the second chamber, the bill may be passed with a majority vote and sent to the Governor for approval.
Once a bill passes both chambers of the General Assembly, it must be presented within twenty days of the session’s adjournment to the Governor, who will decide whether to sign the bill into law or veto it. The Governor has thirty days after presentation to make a decision, a period when advocates should communicate to the Governor directly on why they support or oppose the bill.
If the Governor vetoes a bill, the General Assembly may override the decision with approval from three-fifths of each House’s members. If the Governor’s veto occurs during the regular legislative session, members of both Houses may vote on the override immediately. If it is after the session, the override may only be considered at the next special or regular legislative session. Advocates should consider contacting members of both chambers ahead of an override vote on why they support or oppose the proposed bill.