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The Institution
How a Bill Becomes Law
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The Institution                 

Legislative Powers

The Louisiana Constitution establishes the legislative branch as one of the three coordinate branches of state government. Article III, Section 1(A) vests the legislative power of the state in the legislature, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The legislature is responsible for determining general policy for the state and for the residents of the state through the enactment of laws. The power to enact laws is subject to the substantive and procedural limitations of the federal and state constitutions. Oversight of the actions of the executive in administering state programs is also vested in the legislature. This power, closely related to the power to make laws, is exercised in order to assure that legislative policy and intent are carried out. Review of administrative rules of executive branch agencies by legislative oversight committees is an important exercise of this authority. The legislature and its committees also have the power to gather information and make such investigations as may be needed to enact laws.

Although the executive branch of state government is responsible for the implementation of the constitution and laws, the governor, as the chief executive officer of the state, exercises certain legislative powers. La. Const. Article IV, Sec. 5(B) directs him, at the beginning of each regular session and at other times, to make reports and recommendations and to give information to the legislature concerning the affairs of state, including its complete financial condition. La. Const. Article IV, Sec. 5(D) requires the governor to submit to the legislature an operating budget and a capital budget for each fiscal year. The governor is authorized to call the legislature into special session. Additionally, he may veto any bill or any item in an appropriation bill. The legislature has constitutional power to override a veto by two-thirds of the elected membership of each house.


Continuous Body

La. Const. Article III, Sec. 1(B) makes the legislature a continuous body during the time for which its members are elected; however, a bill or resolution not finally passed in any session shall be withdrawn from the files of the legislature. The continuation of authority permits standing committees of the legislature to meet during the interim between sessions.



La. Const. Article III, Sec. 3 provides that the number of members of the legislature shall be provided by law, but establishes a maximum number of senators at 39 and the maximum number of members of the House of Representatives at 105. The distribution of representation in both houses of the legislature is based on population in accordance with state constitutional mandate (La. Const. Art. III, Sec. 6) and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The constitution provides for single-member districts exclusively. The legislature is required to reapportion the representation in each house by the end of the year following the year in which the state's population is reported to the president of the United States for each decennial federal census, on the basis of total population shown by such census.


Terms and Vacancies

Legislators are elected for four-year terms and take office on the same day as the governor and other statewide elected officials. To get more information about upcoming elections, visit the Secretary of State's Office - Elections Division.

A vacancy in the legislature can be filled only for the remainder of the term during which the vacancy occurred and only by the electors of the district in which the vacancy occurred (La. Const. Art. III, Sec. 4(D)).



The officers of each house of the legislature are elected at the beginning of each term to serve for four-year terms. The House of Representatives elects from among its members a speaker and speaker pro tempore. It also elects its chief clerical officer, the clerk of the House, who is not a member. The Senate elects its presiding officer, the president of the Senate, from among its membership and also elects a president pro tempore from its membership. It selects its chief clerical officer, the secretary of the Senate, who is not a member. Each house provides for the election of its officers. (La. Const. Art. III, Sec. 7(C)).


Sessions of the Legislature

The legislature is required to convene in the state capitol in Baton Rouge for regular annual sessions. In even-numbered years, a general session convenes at noon on the second Monday in March to extend for no longer than 60 legislative days during a period of 85 days. In odd-numbered years, a limited jurisdiction session convenes at noon on the second Monday in April for no longer than 45 legislative days during a period of 60 days. The legislature also may convene for extraordinary sessions and for veto sessions. The legislature is required to meet in an organizational session, which cannot exceed three days, on the date its members take office. A special session may be called by the governor or may be convened by the presiding officers of both houses upon a written petition of a majority of the elected members of each house. A special session is limited to the number of days stated in the proclamation, not to exceed 30 days. The power to legislate in a special session is limited to the objects specifically enumerated in the proclamation (La. Const. Art. III, Sec. 2).


Privileges and Immunities

A member of the legislature shall be privileged from arrest, except for felony, during his attendance at sessions and committee meetings of his house and while going to and from them. No member shall be questioned elsewhere for any speech in either house (La. Const. Art. III, Sec. 8).


Conflict of Interest

La. Const. Art. III, Sec. 9 provides that legislative office is a public trust, and every effort to realize personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust and requires the legislature to enact a code of ethics for public servants (see La. Rev. Stat. 42:1101 et seq.)


Quorum, Attendance, Journal, and Adjournment

The constitution requires that a majority of each house (53 members of the House of Representatives and 20 members of the Senate) shall form a quorum to transact business. A smaller number may adjourn from day to day and may compel attendance of absent members. Each house is required to keep a journal of its proceedings and have it published immediately after the close of each session. The journal of each house is required to accurately reflect the proceedings therein, including all record votes. When the legislature is in session, neither house can adjourn for more than three days or to another place without the consent of the other house.

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