Bills and Legislation

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Making laws is one of the primary functions of the Legislative Assembly, and the legislative process uses a substantial portion of the time of the House each sitting day. A bill must pass through several stages before becoming law. Except in urgent cases, each stage occurs on a different day to allow detailed examination of each bill.

Types of Bills

Public Bill: also known as a government bill, a public bill is a legislative proposal put forward by a cabinet minister as part of government’s public policy agenda. Only a government bill can authorize new spending or impose a new tax. Government bills must be accompanied by a recommendation or “message” from the Lieutenant Governor, the Crown’s representative.

A public bill that is introduced by a Member who is not a cabinet minister is called a “Public Bill in the hands of a Private Member”.

Private Bill: a private bill is introduced by a Member on behalf of a person, a group, a municipality, or a corporation, and generally deals with a specific issue affecting that person or entity.

How a bill becomes a law

First Reading: the bill’s sponsor briefly introduces the proposed bill and explains its purpose. Other Members do not discuss the bill’s merits at this point, but simply vote on whether to accept it for future debate. If they vote yes, the bill will proceed to Second Reading debate.

Second Reading: all Members may debate the bill’s general principles and goals. After the debate, they vote on whether the bill will proceed to Committee Stage.

Committee Stage: each section of the bill is examined in detail by all Members in Committee of the Whole House comprising all Members, except the Speaker. Members may ask the bill’s sponsor about the meaning and purpose of each section, or propose amendments to certain sections. At the end of Committee Stage, Members vote to “report” the bill back to the House so that the bill can proceed to Third Reading.

Third Reading: although Members may choose to debate the bill once again at Third Reading, further debate rarely occurs. When the bill passes Third Reading, the Speaker declares it to be an Act of the Legislative Assembly.

Royal Assent: the Lieutenant Governor, or designate, comes to the Chamber to give Royal Assent to the Act. What started out as a bill is now a law of the Province of British Columbia. Unless the Act specifies otherwise, the new law comes into force upon receiving Royal Assent.

Related links

Bills that have been introduced in the House are public and can be viewed on the Legislative Assembly website under Bills and Legislation.

There you can also find information on the progress of bills before the House, Hansard transcripts of debates, and other information on bills.


Last Updated: May 11, 2017