All bills (meaning proposed legislation) must pass through three "readings" as well as an in depth study by a Committee of the Whole before becoming law. Except in urgent cases, these stages typically occur on different days, to make sure that MLAs and the public alike have the opportunity to examine each bill and suggest changes or improvements.
First Reading - At the first reading, the MLA sponsoring the bill
introduces the proposed law and explains its purpose. MLAs do not discuss the bill's merits at this point but simply vote on whether to accept it for future debate. If the vote is approved, which is typical at this stage, it will proceed to second reading on another day in order to give MLAs time to study the bill.
Second Reading - At the second reading, MLAs debate the bill's general principles and goals but do not yet discuss specific sections. If a bill is complex or contentious, second reading may last several days.
Once the debate on second reading is over, MLAs vote on whether the bill will proceed to the next stage. A vote in favour is generally considered as approval of the principle of the bill. A motion is then made to refer the bill to a Committee of the Whole for detailed examination on a subsequent day. Some MLAs may vote in favour of sending it forward even though they do not entirely agree with its contents. They know that at the next stage they will be able to propose changes (known as amendments).
Committee of the Whole - All MLAs may participate in a
Committee of the Whole, where each section of the bill is debated. The Committee may ask the bill's sponsor (the Member who introduced the bill) detailed questions about each section's meaning and purpose, and may propose amendments to those sections. Once the Committee has finished its examination, the Members will vote to report the bill back to the Assembly.
Report Stage - Once the committee stage is completed, the bill is then reported back to the Legislative Assembly as either "complete without amendment" or "complete with amendment". If the bill is reported as being complete without amendment, it will typically proceed to third reading immediately after. If the bill is reported as being completed with amendment, the amended bill needs to be printed and distributed to Members before it can proceed to third reading in order to give Members time to examine the changes.
Third Reading - At the third reading, MLAs may choose once again to debate the bill before a final vote, although such a debate is rare. If the bill is approved by the Assembly at this stage, the
Speaker will declare it passed.
Royal Assent - The
Lieutenant Governor will come to the Legislative Chamber to give this successfully proposed legislation the Queen's official approval - known as Royal Assent. Once Royal Assent is granted, what started out as a bill is now an Act, forming part of the laws of the Province of British Columbia.
Commencement - While most Acts come into force on the date of Royal Assent, others contain a commencement section that sets a different date for the Act (or one of its other sections) to come into force. This gives the people affected by the law more time to prepare for the change.