overview of the
Massachusetts state house process



Introduce legislation

  • Each legislative session is 2 years long – January of an odd year to July of the following year (i.e. Jan 2019- July 2020)
  • A bill is filed (or refiled) in the House/Senate by a sponsor. Any additional supporters are co-sponsors.
  • About 6,500 bills are filed each session

Committee hearings

  • Each bill is assigned to a committee and by law each bill must have a public hearing
  • Committee hearings feature many bills; they can be several hours long
  • Legislators, advocates and other stakeholders provide written or oral testimony.
  • After the hearing, the committee votes on how to support the bill.


ways & means

  • Any bill that impacts state finance comes to the Ways & Means Committee
  • The committee may hold a second hearing, make amendments to the bill, combine it with other bills, or do nothing.
  • The committee votes on how to support the bill and reports out

floor vote

  • A bill is sent to the floor; it may be debated and amended before a vote
  • If the bill is approved, it moves on to the next branch to repeat the process

Once a bill passes in one house, it goes through the same steps in the other chamber!

Conference committee

  • A bill has been passed in both houses
  • It is common for both the House and Senate to pass differentversions of the same legislation. The Conference Committee is formed to agree on one version.
  • Three members from each branch are appointed by leadership to serve on the Conference Committee
  • When a final version is reached, it is returned to each branch to vote on without any changes.


governor’s signature

  • The governor has 10 days to sign, veto or return it with changes.
  • If a bill does not reach this stage, it can be refiled in the next session