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Guide to Louisiana Legislature

Navigating the legislative session can be a difficult process for beginners, but it doesn’t have to be. We've broken down all the basics here for you on the process, how to follow along with us and how to contact your legislators. First, let’s break down what some of this stuff means.  

During these legislative sessions, lawmakers are coming together to implement policies that can potentially have a significant effect on our lives. We’re working to ensure you have the resources available to you to learn to be an advocate and use your voice to make a difference on issues.  

How does the Legislature work? 

Every year, the Legislature meets in Baton Rouge at our state capitol where legislators introduce bills. The 2023 regular legislative session will convene at noon on Monday, April 10 and the final adjournment will end no later than 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 8.  

The Legislature is made up of two legislative bodies forming the legislative brand of the Louisiana state government: The Senate and the House of Representatives alongside the governor of Louisiana to create laws and establish a state budget. 

 The Louisiana House of Representatives is comprised of 105 members, each elected for a four-year term and the Louisiana Senate is comprised of 39 senators.  

Legislators work to draft/introduce bills, debate bills and vote to kill or pass bills.  

During even-numbered years (f.e. 2022), we have what is called a Regular Session, when any kind of bill introduced except for matters regarding new taxes or an increase in existing taxes.  

During odd-numbered years, such as this year 2023, we will have a Fiscal Session meaning bills around taxes can be introduced alongside any kind of bill. However, legislators are only able to file five nonfiscal bills per legislator.  

How does a bill become a law? 

1. Introduction

Before a bill is introduced in Congress, it starts out as an idea. Anyone can come up with the concept of bill, including you. However, the bill can only be ‘introduced’ by a member of Congress (House Rep. Or Senator) who can then correspond with fellow members of their Chamber to co-sponsor bills with them, if they choose. Please note: Our constitution requires three readings of bills on separate days.

2. First Reading

Bill title is placed in the calendar to be considered in either the House or Senate, depending on which Chamber the sponsor belongs to. F.e. If the legislator who sponsored the bill is a House rep... it will be introduced in the House chamber. And, if the legislator who sponsored the bill is a Senator... it will be introduced in the Senate chamber.

3. Second Reading

The bill is read for a second time and assigned to one of the committees for a hearing. Bills are assigned to committees depending on the subject area and they are referred to a committee by the Speaker of the House or by motion in the Senate. Again, depending on the respective Chamber.  

4. Committee Hearing

During these hearings, the bill is presented by the author, the public can testify against or on behalf of the bill at these committees, and the committee will then vote on whether to pass or defeat the bill. For more information on committees, visit our ‘Basic Legislative Lingo’ session below for a breakdown of what they are. 

5. Committee Report

After each hearing, a report is filed highlighting any action taken on the bills and/or resolutions that day. It is read at the end of that afternoon’s session.  No bill can be passed unless a committee has reported on it.  

6. Third Reading/Final Passage

The engrossed bill is read for a third time. Here, it is debated in the respective Chamber and members can propose amendments. It is then voted by members for final passage. This roll call (vote) is recorded and can be viewed. If this bill passes, it will go to the other chamber (the House or Senate) where it will go through all of the above processes again!  

7. Conference Committee

If the other chamber has amendments, it has to go back to the original chamber it was introduced to be approved. However, if both chambers can’t come to an agreement, the bill is sent to two house conference committees (composed of three Senators and three Representatives) to come to an agreement. Once a compromise has been put together, a conference report will be voted on by both chambers.

8. Passed

Once the bill is passed in both the House and the Senate, it goes to the Governor where it can be signed into law or vetoed within 10 days of delivery to them.  

Where can I view a bill?  

The Louisiana State Legislator site is a great resource to look up bills. Users are able to search and track bills using MYLEGIS, Through this platform you can add bills to a “tracker” and it will show you the bill status, committee hearing dates and when the bill will be voted on in the House or Senate.  

However, you don’t need to make an account! You can also do a simple search for bills in the current session. 

Did you know you can attend committee meetings?

Public Committee Meetings are all open to the public. 

Not only are you able to watch committee meetings, but the public can also submit witness cards (See Basic Legislative Lingo for definition) to let your Senator or Representative know whether you favor or oppose a bill. With this, you can also indicate on your card whether you would like to testify in front of the committee on your card when you fill it out.  

Watch Committee Meetings online here 

View upcoming Committee Meeting schedules here - Here, you can view which “room” to tune into when directed to watch the committee meetings online!  

Basic Legislative Lingo

Act: A bill that has been approved by both houses, signed by the Governor and given an act number by the Secretary of State. 

Amendment: A change made to the language of a bill by adding or deleting passages. 

Adjournment: End of a session for the day, with the hour and the day of the next meeting being set.  

Adjournment Sine Die: Latin for “without a day”, meaning that session is being adjourned for the final day. 

Bill: A bill is a legislative instrument written by a legislator to create a new law or repeal/reform a current law.  

Caucus: An informal group of legislators such as the Black Caucus or the Women’s Caucus. They can also sometimes be referred to as delegations. Here is a list of caucuses and delegations here in Louisiana. 

Chamber: The rooms where the House and Senate meet 

Committee: Committees are composed of legislators that must review.  

Each committee considers all legislation introduced in its assigned policy area. The rules of the House and Senate specify the subject areas covered by each committee. Committees meet at regularly scheduled times during the session and at other times during or outside of the session at the discretion of the committee chair.  

Each committee may create subcommittees to consider particular bills and make recommendations to the full committee. Committees typically hold hearings, hear testimony from interested parties, debate the merits of proposed legislation, and vote whether or not to allow the bill to proceed to another committee in some cases or to the full floor in their chamber. 

In Louisiana, there are 16 Committees in the House and 17 Committees in the Senate   

Committee Report: A reporter of any action taken on the legislative instruments (bills and resolutions) heard at the meeting. The report is typically read prior to the adjournment of the session that day.  

Conference Committee: A committee, composed of three members from each house, the purpose of which is to propose to the two houses a means to resolve differences in a bill when the house of origin refuses to concur in one or more amendments adopted by the opposite house.   

Congress: Congress is the governing legislature comprised of two chambers: the Senate and House of Representatives.  

Constituent: A person who live in a representative’s district  

Witness Cards: A mechanism for the public to express (or request the opportunity to provide testimony in) support or opposition to a legislative instrument f.e. a bill or resolution. These cards are available in the committee room and overflow rooms on the witness tables where you can fill them out and hand them to a designated staff member or sergeant-at-arms.   

Red Cards: A witness card used to oppose an item.  

Green Cards: A witness card used to support an item.  

Tip: The length of these meetings and number of people are limited, so we advise those in large number to appoint someone to speak on behalf of your group/organization. 

Visit the official Louisiana Legislature Glossary page for more!