Pennsylvania General Assembly

Pennsylvania General Assembly

Proposal for a field study


On 19 February 2019, I visited the Pennsylvania General Assembly, with the intention of learning more about the legislature and how the debates are conducted in the general assembly. Another objective of the visit was to know how the bills in the general assembly are drafted, debated and passed into law. I also wanted to know why some of the bills are passed into law while others do not go successfully through the legislative process. The general assembly session for that day was scheduled to start exactly at 1.00 pm, and therefore by 15 minutes to 1.00pm, I had already settled down in the assembly. One of the bills that had been tabled for debate that day was the law on the creation of the First time home buyers saving account (Pennsylvania General Assembly, 2019).

The first thing that I observed is that members of the house of representatives in the sate Pennsylvania are usually very punctual. They had all settled by the time for the beginning of the session came. The meeting started with a singing of the national anthem, anthen afterward the clerk of the general assembly was requested by the speaker to read the bill that was to be discussed that material day.The bill that was being tabled that day was in its third stage of debate and had been introduced a month ago and taken to committee stage.therefore  that day was set for the member of the general;l assembly, the representatives from different districts within Pennsylvania to discuss the bill.

From my visit, I discovered that for a bill to come to the law in the United States, it  follows the following steps:


This is the first step of the legislative process where the bills introduced into the house. I observed that in the house for there was a hopper; a wooden box which was made specifically;y for dropping bills. A member of the legislature, who has an idea that she/he wants to be discussed and passed as law drafts it and drops it into the hopper. Upon introduction, the bill is the given a designation based on the one who introduced the bill, whether a senator or a member of representative. This number that is assigned to the bill is given based on the previous number in the series, during the next two years Congress Anderson, W. (2013). I noticed that the legislator who introduces a bill into the general assembly for consideration is referred to as the sponsor of the bill. In the bill for that date, the sponsor of the bill was Hughes Vincent, a member of representative, of the 7th  Senatorial District in Pennyslvania., who also serves in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Another thing that I learned from this step of the legislative process is that other members, who are not the ‘other’ of the idea, can opt to support the bill and request to be listed as the co-sponsors of the bill. I noticed that the number that is given to bills that are introduced to legislative assembly takes the form of H.R.#  while a bill introduced to the senate-house takes the form of S. for Senate. After it is assigned the number, the bill is then printed in the Congressional Record by the Government printing offices

Committee  Stage

This is the second stage of the legislative process. After the bill has been introduced, assigned number and printed, it is the referred to one or more of the house of the legislative committees that is most relevant to, and according to a set of specified rules. A committee may receive many bills within a congressional year, but the chairman as the chief agenda-setting authority has authority to decide which bill to act on through the hearing process and mark up (Campbell, 2012)…A hearing process provides an opportunity for the committee members to hear the bill. The bill is critically analyzed by the committee members based on its weaknesses and strengths. This is also a stage where the bill receives public particiopatiion., as the committee can invite the member of the public and the press to have their views about the bill. The committee can also access the bill and make the markup.It is a formal step of concluding what the committee has agreed and the proposal that will be tabled in the chamber. At this stage, the committee has the authority to vote the bill with changes, or without changes, hence passing it and placing it on the calendar. I also noticed that some of the bills might be covering the made of more than one committee; hence a committee can receive a bill, propose recommendations and send it to another committee for more consideration. The committee can also kill the bill through voting or even ignore it or return it to the author of the bill. Besides, some bills are so complicated or critical that the main committee can not completely handle them because they require a detailed investigation.The chairman can, therefore, select a sub-committee and assign them a specific task related to the bill. The sub-committee then reports to the full committee on their findings. I also learned the committee is usually given a maximum amount of time, to act on the bill and failed to act on it is termed by the speaker as having killed the bill.

In addition, in case the original bill which had been assigned number is amended, the new bill which has amendments and which has been passed by the committee through voting is issued a new number and send to the chamber.After the bill has been voted in by the committee with or without recommendation, it’s ready to be debated in the chamber, however, before it’s presented to December the bi9ll first is handed to the rules committee that sets the rules under which the bill will be considered by the house.

Floor action

After the committee has passed the bill, it is given the second reading and scheduled for debate. This step only occurs to bills that have been passed by the comedies. The process consists of three stages, placing the bill on the calendar, debating and voting for the bill by the legislators.

Legislative calendar

At this stage, the bill is placed in the legislative calendar of the house of the representative or the Senate. After observing the bills that were scheduled in the calendar of the General Assembly of, Pennsylvania (Davis. 2016), I observed that they were arranged in chronological order and depending on the numbers given. This made it easy for the speaker of the house to decide on the dates which specific bills will be discussed and the stages which various bills had reached.

However, the speaker of the house of majority is the sole decision-maker on the order that will be followed in recording the bills, and the order in which the will be debated in the chamber.


Once the bills have been placed on the calendar, they are then tabled in the floor for debate by the representatives or the senate members. This is the stage where the legislators act on the bill and exp[ress the opinions for support or opposing the bill before voting. At the time I visited the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the bill on the creation of the First time home buyers saving account was in the debate stage. It had successfully gone all the previous steps and was to be debated and voted by the legislators. When the session had begun the clerk of the assembly read the bill for the third time, and the member of the chamber was free to debate on the bill.

( Pennsylvania General Assembly 019).  I noticed that the Rules committee had set the rules that were to be followed by the representatives when debating the bill. I observed that the debate was being a dome in a very orderly manner, controlled by the speaker of the house.

All the member were given equal time to avoid time wastage or biasness in the debate. The speaker also regulated and moderated the discussion to ensure that each member had an opportunity to contribute to the debate. The speaker also played a rile to ensure that both sides of the bill were critically debated. What I noticed with the parliamentary debates as opposed to other types of debates is that they take a formal style from the beginning of the debate until the end. The kind of language and the conduct of the legislators was official and serious as opposed to other forms of debates. It was a unified debate with no element of bias.


After the bill has been exhaust fully debated, it is voted for. The voting process starts with a quorum call by the speaker so as to ensure that the chamber hasthe required a number of legislators to vote the bill as required by the constitution. Suppose the quorum is not attained, the house should adjourn the voting to another date, which the speaker of the assembly sets and communicates to the members of the chamber. In case there are members around the assembly, the sergeant at Arms is sent by the speaker so as to round up the missing numbers (Anderson, 2013). Voting can be done based on roll-call or using voice call. The bill in the on the creation of the First time home buyers saving account was passed through roll call voting, where members voted through ‘Yea’ for those who were for the bill and ‘Nay’ for those who were against the bill.

In case the bill is voted against by the house, it is, and the legislative process ends.However, if the bill is voted for by the house, it is sent to the other chamber unless the other chamber still has a similar bill which is under consideration. The implication of this is that a bill can start at either of the chamber and cross to the other upon being voted for. It can start at the Senate, goes through the legislative process, and when I voted for is sent to the house of representatives.

A bill is considered to have passed the voting process when it goes successful voting from both chambers. This means that a bill that is not voted by either of the chambers dies.

Conference committee

In case a bill that has been taken through the legislative process in the other chamber different from either of the chambers and the chamber does not agree on the amendments, the two chambers can form a conference committee that is composed of senators and the house of representatives so that they can debate the compromise. I am then given a final reading in  each house and sent to the President

Once the two chambers have agreed on the bill and have made the significant changes, the bill becomes ‘enrolled’ and is then sent to the president of the United States to sign it into the law. In case the president takes no action on the bill for ten days when the Congress in session, the bill automatically becomes a law. If the president opposes the bill, he or she can ‘veto’ the bill. A vetoed bill is sent back t the legislatures for reconsideration. However, this can still be overturned through 2/3 of senate and representatives. However, this is only done when the president vetoes the bill and sent it back without listing the reasons.

Why some bill is passed as low while another fail

After observing the legislative and the debate process, I noticed that there are bills that go through the process successfully to become law while others do not make to become a law. The reason is that some of the laws do not pass some stages. For example, some of the laws did not pass the committee stage. According to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, some bills failed because the committees were which they are sent to consider them not sufficient for consideration, and returned them to the authors of such measures to draft it again. I also observed that some bills did not pass the Floor action stage. A bill can suffessful go through the introduction and committee stage but still be voted against by the members of the chambers. In this case, the bill dies. Also, some of the bills even failed to become law due to a failure to be passed by either council. Furthermore, there was the bill that went through the other stages, but still, the president takes no action of 10 days after the Congress has adjourned their second session, hence pocket veto.

How a bill is drafted.

A bill is proposed legislation that drafted and passed to the legislature for consideration. What I learned through the visit to the Pennsylvania General Assembly about statements is that anybody can draft a bill. However, it can only be introduced to the legislature by a member of Congress.

After visiting the Pennsylvania General assembly, I learned that the legislature is focused on ensuring a better future of the country through formulating legislation that directly impacts on the welfare of the individuals. Most of the bills that had been passed and those that were still in the legislative p[rocess were all aimed at ensuring the betterment of the lives of the general citizens of Pennsylvania. More than 70% of the total bills that were listed in the legislative calendar covered health, security, and commerce (Pennsylvania General Assembly. 2019). This is the three factors that drive the economy of any country, state and well being of the citizens.


The visit to the Pennsylvania General assembly was high, and I was able even to exceed my expectations. The visit helped me to understand the legislative process by practically witnessing the bills being passed and various resources that were at my disposal. I realized why some of the past while others failed, and how the bill can be formulated and tabled in the assembly. Also, I learned that the legislature is committed to ensuring better standards of living, better health and security through policy and formulation of laws.




Pennsylvania General Assembly. (2019). Tabled bill calendar. Retrieved from: Accessed on 8 February 2019.

Anderson, W. (2013). The keys to legislative success in the US House of Representatives. Legislative Studies Quarterly28(3), 357-386.

Campbell, J. E. (2012). Cosponsoring legislation in the US Congress. Legislative Studies Quarterly7(3), 415-422.

Davis Mike. (2016). Retrieved from

Longley, R. (2009, June 16). How Bills Become Laws in the US Congress. Retrieved from