How a Bill Becomes Law

There are two main types of bills: public and private. In general, a public bill is concerned with matters of public policy, while a private bill relates to matters of a particular interest or benefit to a person or persons, including corporations. This note will focus on the process followed for public bills.

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Public Bills - Stages of a Bill

Notice of Motion for First Reading - The Minister or Member that sponsors a bill must give notice two sitting days in advance that he or she intends to introduce a bill in the Legislative Assembly by giving Notice of Motion for First Reading.

First Reading - After the two sitting days notice period has lapsed, the Minister or Member sponsoring the bill, reads out the title of the bill and moves that the bill “be now read for the first time”.  If the motion on First Reading is adopted, the bill is numbered, printed and distributed so that Members and the public can have full access to it.

Second Reading - This is a very important step in the legislative process. The Minister or Member sponsoring the bill outlines the reasons why people of the Northwest Territories need such a bill. Other members can also make comments on the bill. At this stage, debate is limited to the principle and merits of the bill. When the debate has ended, Members are asked to vote on whether the bill should be read a second time and sent to a committee. The second reading is important because Members decide whether they think the bill is a good idea. The bill is defeated if a majority of the Members of the Legislative Assembly vote against the second reading.

Committee Stage - A committee, consisting of Regular Members, studies the bill carefully. They may ask experts in the subject matter to be witnesses and give their opinions on it. This review process is also open to the public. The committee often holds public hearings, or receives written submissions on bills. Based on these suggestions, the committee may decide to change or amend parts of the bill with the sponsor’s concurrence. The committee writes a report outlining their observations and any changes that may have been made to the bill and reports it back to the Legislative Assembly for consideration in Committee of the Whole. The committee has 120 days to complete its review and report back to the Legislative Assembly.

Committee of the Whole Review - All Members can suggest changes to the bill at this stage. Members vote for or against proposed changes and finally vote on whether the bill should proceed for a third reading.

Third Reading – The Minister or Member sponsoring the bill moves that the bill be read a third time. This is usually the last chance for Members to debate the bill. If the majority of Members vote to pass the bill, it proceeds to the final stage, Assent by the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories.

Assent and Proclamation – After a bill has been passed by the Legislative Assembly it must be approved by the Commissioner before it can become law. This approval is called Assent. Normally, the Commissioner grants Assent on the floor of the Legislative Assembly although the Commissioner may also write a letter to the Speaker indicating Assent has been granted. In these instances, the Speaker reads the letter to the Members in the Chamber.