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Gotham Gazette: City Government
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How a Bill Becomes a Law

When a bill (called an "Intro" in the City Council) is introduced, it is sent to one of 27 council committees for consideration. The chair of the committee decides whether or not to hold a hearing on the measure; at a hearing, the council listens to debate and testimony. The chair then can call for a vote on the measure. A majority of the committee members must vote in favor of an Intro for it to pass. If the chair chooses not to hold a hearing or call a vote, the bill can sit indefinitely with no action taken. Other measures include Resolutions (notated as Res.) which are used for legislative actions like adopting budgets or for expressing the opinion of the body. Land use items, such as changes in zoning regulations, are designated as L.U.

Once a bill passes out of committee, it is sent to the full council. If passed by a majority (at least 26 of the 51 council members), the bill is sent to the mayor, who can also hold a public hearing. The mayor then must choose to sign or veto the bill. If the mayor signs the bill, it becomes a local law. If the mayor vetoes the bill, he must return it to the council at the next scheduled council meeting. The City Council has 30 days to override the mayoral veto by a two-thirds majority. In this event, the bill becomes a local law. Land use decisions do not need to be signed by the mayor; they are approved through the city's Department of City Planning. If the mayor does not sign or veto a bill within 30 days after receiving it from the council, it is considered approved.

In the New York City Council, nearly all of the council votes are unanimous because the speaker controls the legislative agenda for the council; only bills that he or she wants passed and have enough support to override a veto come up for a vote. Also of the 51 council members, 48 are Democrats, which means a party line vote is never in question.

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Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.