The legislative power of the state is vested in the Senate and Assembly, according to Article III, § 1 of the New York State Constitution. The rest of Article III specifies the size of the Senate and the Assembly, the election of legislators, and the general legislative process. Specific procedural rules are to be determined by the Senate and the Assembly, according to Article III, §9. Such rules are adopted by Senate and Assembly resolution at the beginning of each two-year legislative term.
The legislative term consists of two legislative sessions. The legislative sessions are usually referenced by number, e.g., 228th Session (2005). Article IV, § 7 requires that every bill that passes both the Senate and the Assembly be approved and signed by the Governor before it becomes a law. Under Article IV, § 3 the Governor also has the power to convene the legislature, or the Senate only, on extraordinary occasions.
Many government agencies and advisory committees, such as the Law Revision Commission, the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission (LBDC), the Advisory Committee on Civil Practice, and the Advisory Committee on Criminal Law and Procedure are involved in assisting legislators with bill drafting. Several of the bar associations also play a role in shaping legislation.
Bills may be introduced in either house (called "one-house bills"), or introduced jointly by a sponsor from each house (called "uni-bills"). Uni-bills are usually given serious consideration. The executive budget is also submitted in bill form by the governor according to Article VII of the New York Constitution. Each bill's sponsor is required by the rules of each house to file an "introducer's memorandum" (also known as "sponsor's memorandum" or "legislative memorandum"), which sets forth the intent of the proposed legislation.
Before being introduced, a bill is deposited with the Revision Clerk in each house who works closely with the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission (LBDC) in proofreading the bill and assigning it a bill number and an official date of introduction. The text of the bill is usually available within twenty-four hours of introduction on the New York State Legislature website.
Different types of bills:
After a bill has been proofread, assigned a bill number and introduced, it is referred to the appropriate standing committee of the house where it is introduced for study. The committee will usually hold public hearings on bills to gather different opinions. After consideration, the committee may amend the bill, report it to the full house, or reject it. Unlike the U.S. Congress' standing committees, New York State legislative standing committees do not issue written reports when a bill advances out of committee.
Names of the members of Assembly committees are available at the Assembly website: Committees, Commissions and Task Forces. Names of members of Senate committees are available at the New York State Legislature website: Senate Committees.
Each bill has to be in printed form on the members' desks for three legislative days before it can be voted on, unless the Governor sends a "Message of Necessity" and both houses accept it. A bill must pass in both houses before it is sent to the governor for consideration. A bill can be amended either in committee or during this time by the full house. When a bill is amended, a letter of the alphabet will be added to the bill number to show the number of amendments the bill has gone through. For example, Senate bill S205 becomes S205-A after one amendment, and S205-B after the second amendment. The Senate can amend a bill sent from the Assembly after its passage in the Assembly. When that happens, the bill will be given a new bill number by the Assembly and has to be sent to the Senate after its passage in the Assembly. The same text has to pass both houses (the New York Legislature does not employ the Congressional conference system to negotiate and resolve bill differences). Sometimes both houses pass similar bills, but cannot reconcile the differences between them within a reasonable period of time. When this happens, the Senate Majority Leader and Assembly Speaker will each appoint five members to serve on a conference committee to negotiate and iron out the differences. Generally, a majority of the elected membership of each house is required to pass a bill. Bills that would appropriate funds for local or private purposes and some special bills require a two-thirds vote. Consideration of tax and appropriations bills requires a quorum of at least three-fifths of the elected membership.
After a bill passes both houses, the presiding officer of each house will certify the passage. The house of origin will engross the bill by affixing certifications of passage from each house and enclosing the bill in a folder known as a "bill jacket," which includes opinions from interested parties that are collected by the Governor's Counsel's office, and the governor's approval memoranda (or if the bill is vetoed, a veto memorandum).
The house of origin transmits the engrossed bill to the governor's office. The governor has ten days to act on a bill that is passed by the legislature before the last ten days of its session. These are called "ten-day" bills. The governor has thirty days to act on bills passed by the legislature during the last ten days of its session. These are called "thirty-day" bills. He may consult opinions from interested parties collected by the Governor's Counsel's office before deciding whether to sign the bill, veto it, or take no action. The governor may issue a message outlining his rationale and place it in the bill jacket (the governor is required to explain why he vetoed a bill in a veto memorandum unless the bill is "pocket vetoed"). A vetoed bill can still become law if two-thirds of the members of each house vote to override the Governor's veto. "Ten-day" bills automatically become law if the governor does not take any action during the ten-day period. "Thirty-day" bills are "pocket vetoed" and do not become law if the governor does not sign them within the thirty-day limit. Bills that become law (bearing the governor's signature or just certifications of passage) are assigned a chapter number in the office of the legislative secretary to the governor. These enacted laws are called "chapter laws" and are numbered chronologically.
Session laws are annual volumes of "chapter laws" printed in chronological order (by chapter number). They include all types of legislation: public, private, temporary, and permanent laws. Subsequent amendments or repeals are not consolidated.
Currently in-force laws of a public, general, and permanent nature are compiled into code by subject areas for easier access. In New York state, the subject compiled code is called the Consolidated Laws of New York. The Consolidated Laws of New York were first published in 1909. Each volume has a distinct subject title and chapter number. The number of Consolidated Laws has expanded from 61 in 1909 to over 90 today. Unlike the federal government and other state governments, New York state does NOT publish a current official version of its code. A free web version of the laws, New York State Consolidated Laws, is available on the State Assembly website, but it is not certified as containing the official text of the Consolidated Laws. There are two annotated versions of the Consolidated Laws by commercial publishers: McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated and New York Consolidated Laws Service.
Some laws, such as court acts, the New York City Charter and Administrative Code, and other special laws, are not part of the Consolidated Laws. These are called Unconsolidated Laws.
Now that you know how bills are enacted and how laws are published and compiled, the first place to find the current law is Consolidated Laws of New York. Electronic versions (LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Web) are convenient to use if you have the citation. Electronic versions are usually more up to date, minimizing the need to update what you have already obtained. If all you have is a legal issue and you want to find out which sections ofNew York Consolidated Laws deal with it, Westlaw and the print versions are the most user friendly because of their subject indexes and popular name tables, which allow you to look up a legal concept by keyword or by popular name.
Even the electronic versions of the Consolidated Laws (LexisNexis, Westlaw, Web) are not current up to the minute. Depending on the purpose of your research, you may need to check newly enacted chapter laws and pending legislation to determine if your sections will be affected and when. Both LexisNexis and Westlaw tell you how current their Consolidated Laws databases are (i.e., which current chapter laws have been incorporated).
If you use the print versions of Consolidated Laws, here is what you must do: