How it works: The Missouri Legislature

The first day of the 100th Missouri General Assembly (second of two legislative sessions) is Wednesday.

Each session, the sitting governor is constitutionally required to deliver a State of the State address to a joint meeting of the chambers - held in the House chambers to accommodate all the members of the Legislature. The address is intended for the governor to report on the condition of Missouri. It is a chance for the governor to lay out his priorities for the commencing session.

Gov. Mike Parson's address is scheduled Jan. 15.

The session's last day is May 15. Breaks are scheduled for Jan. 20 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, March 23-27 for spring recess and April 13 for Easter.

In Missouri, the Senate is made up of 34 members. Twenty-four are Republicans, and 10 are Democrats. The House is made up of 163 members. Republicans account for 114 members of the House, while 48 are Democrats. One seat is vacant - District 34 in the Lee's Summit area.

Bills introduced in either chamber are assigned a number and read for a first time by their titles. The bills then go on calendars for second reading and assignment to a committee.

Committees often decide the fate of bills. Once a public hearing is conducted on a bill before the assigned committee, the committee has several voting options - report a bill with the recommendation it "do pass," recommend amendments or a substitute bill, report a bill with the recommendation that it "do not pass," or make no report at all.

Committees must be made up of majority and minority party members who are as close as possible to the proportion of party makeup as their chambers. The president pro tem appoints standing committees in the Senate. The speaker of the House makes committee appointments in the House.

Bills that advance out of committee with a favorable report or recommended substitution are placed on a calendar for perfection - debate on the floor of the house of origin, the Senate or the House. Each chamber can also debate and vote to add further amendments.

Once all amendments have been considered, a motion is made to declare the bill perfected. Perfection is usually by voice vote - audible votes for or against the bill, with the collective outcome determined at the discretion of the presiding officer - but a roll call vote can be taken at the request of five legislators.

If a majority of members vote to perfect a bill, the bill is reprinted and goes on a calendar for third reading and final passage. No further amendments "of a substantive nature" may be made at that point. Once debate is finished, a vote is taken and recorded, and if a constitutional majority approves the bill - 18 senators or 82 House members - the bill is reported to the other chamber.

There, the bill is read a second time again, heard and reported by committee, read a third time and offered for final approval.

Any further amendments at this point are referred back to the chamber of origin - and if not approved, a conference committee with members of both chambers takes place. Any resulting conference committee version of the bill is first acted upon by the originating chamber, then the other.

Upon final passage by both chambers of the Legislature, bills are printed, proofed and signed in open session by the House speaker and Senate president or president pro tem.

Any members' objections may also be filed and sent with the bill to the governor, who has 15 days to act on a bill if delivered during session and 45 days if the Legislature has adjourned or recessed for a 30-day period.

A governor's veto may later be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both legislative chambers.

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