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STRUCTURE OF A BILL


Captions

Every bill begins with a brief statement, known as the caption, that describes what the bill proposes to do.  This statement can quickly tell an agency if it could be affected by the bill, but should not be used to automatically rule out analyzing the bill. 

Two basic forms of captions are used by the Legislature; a brief, often one-line, caption that gives an outline of what the bill proposes, and a full caption that contains all the provisions in the bill and identifies the laws it will amend, change or repeal. Bills with a short caption may have to be read in their entirety in order to determine the possible impacts on an agency.  A determination of agency impact can more easily be made from a full caption which presents more information. For example, if an agency is covered by Articles 6.01 through 6.19 of a code and the full caption shows the bill amends Art. 6.17, you will immediately know the bill will have an impact on the agency.

SECTIONS and Sections

Bills are divided into SECTIONS. However, bills also refer to Sections (Sec.) which are parts of the law.  Knowing the difference can help to avoid confusion.  A SECTION (always capitalized) is part of the bill while a Section, with only the first letter capitalized, is a part of the law the bill would enact or change.  A SECTION contains a description of what the Sec. is going to do.  SECTIONS are numbered sequentially (SECTION 1, SECTION 2, etc.)  Words that might appear after the heading "SECTION 1." could include; "is adopted to read as follows", "is amended to read as follows", "to repeal", etc.  In every case, the phrase following the heading of SECTION is an introduction that tells you what the Sec. that follows does.  In analyzing a bill, it is important to have an understanding of the difference between Sec. 2 of SECTION 1 and SECTION 2.  SECTIONS are part of the bill while Secs. are part of the law itself. The word SECTION and the instructions that follow will not be printed in the law books, but the Sec. and the words that follow it will.

Articles

Bills may also be divided into ARTICLES with SECTIONS and Sec. included.  This format is usually used on bills that cover more than one subject.

Line and Page

Bills drafted by the Legislative Council are formatted to number every line and every page of the bill.  The first page of a bill generally has 24 numbered lines.  This system can be used to identify portions of a bill which may present problems or are of special interest rather than trying to refer to a SECTION number.   For example, if the problem area is cited as being lines 12 through 20 on page 6 of the bill, there will be no question about which provision is being cited.

This can be helpful when analyzing amendments. If a bill is being amended by replacing or striking the language on line "x" of page "y", you only have to know how to use a line and page citation to quickly determine the impact of the amendment on the bill by placing the change in the proper place.  Be aware that committee reports used on the Senate floor are printed in a single-spaced format while all other versions in both chambers are printed in a double-spaced format. Unless you have the single-spaced format, you may still have to refer to the SECTION or Section of the bill to be sure that you have correctly identified a part of the bill.

Editing Features

To make proposed changes in existing law stand out from the rest of the bill, the Legislature uses underlining, bracketing and striking-through.

Underlining, Bracketing and Strike-Through

New language or words being added to a bill are underlined.  For example, adding the words "in alternate years" to a sentence that reads "A tax of two dollars per person shall be collected." would result in:

A tax of two dollars per person shall be collected in alternate years.

To remove words or language from a bill, the Legislature uses a system that calls for placing the language to be removed inside brackets and striking-through the individual words.  If they wanted to change the phrase "A tax of two dollars per person and three dollars per family shall be collected in alternate years" so as to remove the tax on families, the bill would read:

A tax of two dollars per person [and three dollars per family] shall be collected in alternate years.

If they want the the wording  to reflect a tax change from $2 per person to $3 per person, they will use both underlining and bracketing/striking as follows:

A tax of three [two] dollars per person shall be collected in alternative years.

All of these changes together would result in a sentence that looked like this:

A tax of three [two] dollars per person [and three dollars per family] shall be collected in alternate years.

Underlining can be used to add an entirely new provision to a law. Similarly, bracketing and striking-through can be used to remove a complete section from the law and either replace it with a new provision or repeal it entirely.

Other Ways to Show Changes

Underlining, bracketing and striking-through make it possible to quickly see changes to bills.  However, if the entire bill or SECTION is being created or repealed, it may simply say the law is "amended by adding Section (a number) to read as follows:" or "is being amended by repealing Section #."  In these instances no underlining or strike-through is used.