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Maryland Resources

This State Guide provides an in-depth look at sources of law in Maryland.

Legislative Process

Maryland has a two-chamber legislature called the Maryland General Assembly. Its two houses are called the Senate and the House of Delegates. The Maryland General Assembly meets in Annapolis each year from January to April (a "session") and has 47 senators and 141 delegates elected from 47 districts.

When a bill is introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, it follows this process:

1. Introduction.

When a legislator decides to sponsor legislation, legislative staff aides draft the bill for the legislator's approval. Bills on most subjects may be introduced in either chamber during the first 55 days of a session. After that, a bill may only be introduced with the consent of two-thirds of the membership of the chamber in which it is to be introduced.

2. First Reading.

The Maryland Constitution requires that a bill receive three "readings," and favorable votes in each chamber. When a bill is introduced, it receives its first reading. The title, sponsor, and committee assignment of the bill are announced.

3. Committee Action.

The assigned committee holds a hearing to consider the bill. Anyone may testify at the hearing; written statements such as letters and emails from constituents may also be submitted. Later, the committee meets again to consider proposed amendments and to vote on the bill. The bill may be voted "favorable," "favorable with amendments," or "unfavorable." Alternatively, the bill may be referred for interim study. A bill referred for interim study will receive no further action before the next session.

4. Second Reading.

If the bill receives a favorable committee vote, it will be sent to the full chamber. The bill and any amendments made by the committee are explained to the full chamber. The full chamber may debate the bill, and amendments may be offered from the floor. Votes are taken on the bill and any amendments; these are usually voice votes. If the bill passes the second reading vote, it is reprinted to incorporate the amendments.

5. Third Reading.

This is the final vote by the full chamber. No amendments may be offered, and a roll call vote must be taken. If the bill passes this vote, it is sent to the other chamber for consideration.

6. Second Chamber Consideration.

The consideration process is similar in the second chamber. However, testimony at the committee hearing may be limited, and sometimes only the bill's sponsor will be able to testify. Also, it is possible in the second chamber to propose amendments at the third reading stage. If there are no amendments in the second chamber, the bill is sent to the governor.

7. Concurrence/Non-Concurrence.

If the second chamber passes an amended version of the bill, it is sent back to the original chamber, which will consider the amendments. The chamber of origin may concur in the amendments or reject them. If it rejects them, the second chamber may be asked to withdraw its amendments. If the second chamber agrees, the amendments are stripped from the bill and the second chamber votes again, passing the version of the bill that was approved by the chamber of origin. If it does not agree, either chamber may request a conference committee.

8. Conference Committee.

A conference committee consists of three members from each chamber. Conference committees attempt to reach a compromise between the differing versions of the bill passed by each chamber. Four out of six committee members must vote in favor of a compromise bill for it to be "reported out;" otherwise, the bill dies. The conference committee "report" contains the compromise language, and must be approved by both houses before the bill is considered "passed." The conference report cannot be amended.

9. Governor.

Once both chambers have passed identical versions of the bill, it is sent to the governor for signature or veto. The governor has a limited period of time, usually six days, excluding Sunday, to decide whether to sign or veto a bill, but the exact amount of time varies depending on when the bill is presented. If the governor does not act within the required period, the bill automatically becomes law (Md. Const. art. II, § 17). The General Assembly may override a veto with a three-fifths vote of the elected membership of each chamber. Once the bill is approved, it is assigned a chapter number and becomes part of the Laws of Maryland.

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