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Enactment of a Law

Origins of Legislation

Legislation originates in several ways. The Constitution provides that the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;..."

The President fulfills this duty either by personally addressing a joint session of the two Houses or by sending messages in writing to Congress, or to either body thereof, which are received and referred to the appropriate committees. The President usually presents or submits his annual message on the state of the Union shortly after the beginning of a session.

In addition, there are many executive communications sent to Congress. These are documents signed by the President or by an agency or department head, and filed or submitted as a report to the Senate as directed by law or otherwise. These items are numbered sequentially for a Congress and assigned a prefix EC. They are described only by a brief statement of the contents in the Congressional Record.

The right of petition is guaranteed the citizens of the United States by the Constitution, and many individual petitions as well as memorials from State legislatures are sent to Congress. They are laid before the two Houses by their respective Presiding Officers or submitted by individual Members of the House and Senate in their respective bodies, and are usually referred to the appropriate committees of the House in which they were submitted.

Bills to carry out the recommendations of the President are usually introduced "by request" by the chairmen of the various committees or subcommittees thereof which have jurisdiction of the subject matter. Sometimes the committees themselves may submit and report to the Senate "original bills" to carry out such recommendations.

The ideas for legislative proposals may come from an individual Representative or Senator, from any of the executive departments of the Government, from private organized groups or associations, or from any individual citizen. However, they can be introduced in their respective Houses only by Senators and Representatives. When introduced, they are referred to the standing committees which have jurisdiction over the subject matter.

Members frequently introduce bills that are similar in purpose, in which case the committee considering them may add to one of the bills the best features of the others for reporting to the parent body, or draft an entirely new bill (known as an original bill) and report it in lieu of the others.

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