Massachusetts House Of Representatives Committee Assignments Are

This is a detailed, four-page explanation of how a bill becomes a law in the Massachusetts state legislature.

The Legislative Process in Massachusetts

Legislation can originate in either the House or Senate, with the exception of revenue bills (also called "money bills;" i.e., bills which require the Commonwealth to raise revenue) and the budget, which are constitutionally mandated to originate in the House. All bills are introduced by legislators, but the state constitution allows citizens to present petitions "by request." With the cooperation of a legislator, the bill is drafted and submitted. The Governor may also file bills.

Bill Filing:

The bill filing deadline is 5:00 p.m. on the third Friday in January of the first annual session of the General Court.

"Late files" (i.e. bills filed after this deadline) require a report of the committees on Rules of the two branches, acting concurrently, and then approval of two thirds of the members of each branch voting thereon.

Once the bill is filed in the House or Senate Clerk's office, the bill is given a number andrecorded in a docket book, which lists all bills as they are filed. All bills have a title andnumber. Bills that originate in the House begin with "H" and those that originate in the Senate begin with "S." The House and Senate Clerk's office refer bills to the appropriate committee for consideration.

Assignment to Committee:

Bills are referred to a topic-appropriate committee by the Senate Clerk and House Clerk subject to the approval of the presiding officer in each branch, and subject to any changes the full Senate or House may make in the assignment process.  

For a list of the current Joint Committees, point your browser to

It is mandatory for each joint committee to hold a hearing on each bill submitted to the committee. Hearings are open to the public and all interested parties may attend and address the committee. The committee chair may limit the time allowed to individual speakers and/or the time allowed for a particular matter.

Committee staff prepare background analyses, known as legislative summaries, on bills for presentation to Committee members before the public hearing. These summaries remain with the Committee staff.

Executive Session:

Following the completion of a hearing, the committee holds an "executive session" to review testimony before making their recommendations. Committees are required to report all bills, but they are not required to conduct hearings on all of them. In Massachusetts, committee chairs lack the authority to individually block legislation in committee.  Executive sessions are open to the public, but only committee members may speak. The committee then issues a report to the Clerk's office recommending that a bill "ought to pass," "ought not to pass," or it is given a study order.   

Study orders seek to authorize the Committee to sit during recess and study this measure and similar ones and file a narrative report of its findings. Due to budgetary and staff constraints, though, study orders are seldom approved. The vast majority of bills sent to a study order do not progress any further in the legislative process. 

The committee may recommend a new draft of the bill before it (i.e., recommend that the bill "ought to pass" as amended); this committee draft will have a new bill number as assigned by the Clerk. Such a redraft action occurs when many similar measures are filed before the committee, which will report out one draft only. A redraft may also occur when there are major language/terminology changes recommended by the Committee.

If a bill receives a favorable recommendation, the bill moves through the legislative process. This process is known as "Three Readings."

Bill Readings:

First Reading - This is the first of three mandatory readings in each branch of the General Court. This reading is the account of the Committee Report delivered by the Clerk of the House or Senate. Once a bill receives a favorable report from a committee, it is usually sent to the Committee on Steering and Policy (some bills, especially those involving money, will go to Ways and Means before Steering and Policy).

Second Reading - The Second Reading occurs when the bill is released from Steering and Policy. It is then placed in the Orders of the Day. At this time, the floor of the chamber is
opened for discussion and debate on the merits of the bill. Amendments frequently occur during this time. A favorable roll call vote or a voice vote is needed to send the bill to the Third Reading.

Third Reading - After a vote of approval for the bill's second reading occurs, it is sent tothe Committee on Bills in Third Reading to be reviewed. This committee checks the contents of the bill for legal technicalities and proper citations. After the bill is releasedby this committee it is read for the third and final time in the chamber where it may againbe debated and amended.

Formal and Informal Sessions:

The Legislature is constitutionally mandated to meet in their respective chambers for either an informal or formal session every 72 hours. Typically, informal sessions are held on Mondays and Thursdays unless there are formal sessions scheduled for those days. The scheduling of informal and formal sessions is determined by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. 

An informal session addresses non-controversial business of the Legislature and no roll calls are taken. Only reports of committees, enactments, papers from the other branch, resolutions, amendments, matters in the Orders of the Day, and other non-controversial issues are supposed to be considered and are approved by a voice vote. Informal sessions allow the Legislature to address day to day business, however, all business conducted must pass unanimously. If any member objects to a matter, the matter is not approved at that time. Additionally, while no attendance is taken, a handful of members usually attend the session, including a representative of the minority party, a representative of the progressive caucus, and members that anticipate
that their bills may be approved during the session.

A formal session considers and acts upon reports of committees, messages from theGovernor, petitions, orders, enactments, papers form the other branch, matters in theOrders of the Day and any other issues that may be controversial in nature and during which roll calls may be taken.

Engrossment and Enactment:

Once released from the Committee on Third Reading, the bill is brought before the membership for debate and a vote on "passage of the bill to be engrossed." Once the bill is engrossed, it is sent to the other chamber to repeat the Three Reading process and engrossment. If the House and Senate pass the exact same versions of a bill, a vote on enactment must occur in both chambers.

Conference Committee:

If there are differences between the House and Senate bills, both chambers must agree on one version; the measure can't progress to enactment until the same draft is approved by both chambers. This situation, which commonly arises during appropriation bill proceedings, requires the appointment of a conference committee. These are temporary bodies that iron out differences in legislation between the two branches. Conference committees are appointed by the Speaker of the House and Senate President of both chambers and consist of three representatives and three senators, one of whom from each body must be from the minority party. 

The Governor:

Following enactment, the bill is sent to the Governor, who may act on the bill in a variety of ways. The Governor may:

1. Sign the bill. The bill becomes law after 90 days, unless it contains an emergencypreamble, in which case it becomes law immediately.

2. Veto the bill. The bill is returned to the General Court with his/her reasons for the veto. The legislature may reconsider the bill and can override the veto by a 2/3rdsvote in both chambers. The bill then becomes law without the Governor's signature.

3. The Governor may choose not to sign the bill but let it become law anyway. This occurs if he/she holds the bill for ten days during which time the legislature is insession.

4. Return the bill to the General Court with recommendation for changes. This action also opens the bill to any additional amendments offered by members. The Legislature can consider the recommendation, but may return the bill without accommodating his/her proposal. If so, the Governor must sign the bill as is or veto it.

5. Line item veto. The Governor only has this power for the annual state budget. He/she may line out or veto certain provisions, most often expenditure items with which he does not agree, and then sign the remainder into law. The line item vetoes are returned to the General Court who can override the Governor's vetoes with a 2/3rds majority in both chambers.

Any bills that are not passed by the conclusion of the two year legislative session are no longer valid. They must be refiled to be considered during the next session.

Effective Date of Legislation:

Laws involving general legislation (i.e. legislation of a general and permanent effect), become effective 90 days after the Governor's signature. Days are counted in succession, including holidays and weekends, and acts become effective at 12:01 am on the 91st day.

Acts with emergency preambles usually provide for the measure to become effective immediately, but always in less than 90 days. The preamble must be adopted by both branches. In such cases, the act is effective upon the precise moment of the Governor's signature.

In addition, the Governor can file an "emergency letter" requiring an act to become effective immediately. This emergency declaration is filed with the Secretary of State; the effective date and time (down to the minute) is recorded as of the filing in the Secretary of State's Office.

Some acts contain particular effective date language as a provision within the act. Special acts are usually effective in 30 days unless noted otherwise at the end of the act. Some Special Acts are made effective upon passage if, upon review by Senate or House Counsel or an amendment of the General Court, it is decided that a more immediate effect is necessary.


Legislative Metrics

Read our 2017 Report Card for McGovern.

Ideology–Leadership Chart

McGovern is shown as a purple triangle ▲ in our ideology-leadership chart below. Each dot is a member of the House of Representatives positioned according to our liberal–conservative ideology score (left to right) and our leadership score (leaders are toward the top).

The chart is based on the bills McGovern has sponsored and cosponsored. See full analysis methodology.

Ratings from Advocacy Organizations

Committee Membership

James “Jim” McGovern sits on the following committees:

Enacted Legislation

McGovern was the primary sponsor of 8 bills that were enacted. The most recent include:

  • H.R. 4405 (112th): Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012
  • H.R. 4017 (111th): To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 43 Maple Avenue in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, as the “Ann Marie Blute Post Office”.
  • H.R. 2478 (111th): Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009
  • H.R. 6874 (110th): To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 156 Taunton Avenue in Seekonk, Massachusetts, as the “Lance Corporal Eric Paul Valdepenas Post Office ...
  • H.R. 4152 (109th): To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 320 High Street in Clinton, Massachusetts, as the “Raymond J. Salmon Post Office”.
  • H.R. 5333 (107th): To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4 East Central Street in Worcester, Massachusetts, as the “Joseph D. Early Post Office Building”.
  • H.R. 559 (107th): To designate the United States courthouse located at 1 Courthouse Way in Boston, Massachusetts, as the “John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse”.

View All »

We consider a bill enacted if one of the following is true: a) it is enacted itself, b) it has a companion bill in the other chamber (as identified by Congress) which was enacted, or c) if about one third or more of its provisions were incorporated into bills that were enacted (as determined by an automated text analysis, applicable beginning with bills in the 110th Congress).

Bills Sponsored

Issue Areas

McGovern sponsors bills primarily in these issue areas:

International Affairs (39%)Armed Forces and National Security (32%)Agriculture and Food (7%)Transportation and Public Works (7%)Civil Rights and Liberties, Minority Issues (7%)Health (7%)

Recent Bills

Some of McGovern’s most recently sponsored bills include...

View All » | View Cosponsors »

Voting Record

Key Votes

McGovern’s VoteVote Description
No S. 612: A bill to designate the Federal building and United States courthouse located at 1300 Victoria Street in Laredo, Texas, as the “George P. Kazen Federal Building ...
Dec 8, 2016. Passed 360/61.
Aye H.Res. 937: Providing for consideration of the conference report to accompany the bill (S. 2943) to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2017 for military activities of the Department ...
Dec 1, 2016. Passed 277/139.
No H.R. 3038: Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015, Part II
Jul 15, 2015. Passed 312/119.
No H.R. 2146: Defending Public Safety Employees’ Retirement Act
Jun 18, 2015. Passed 218/208.
This vote made H.R. 2146 the vehicle for passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently being negotiated. H.R. 2146 was originally introduced as a bill to address issues with retirement funds of federal law enforcement officers and firefighters. ...
Nay H.R. 2048: Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ensuring Effective Discipline Over Monitoring Act of 2015
May 13, 2015. Passed 338/88.
The USA Freedom Act (H.R. 2048, Pub.L. 114–23) is a U.S. law enacted on June 2, 2015 that restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act, which had expired the day before. The act imposes some new limits on the bulk collection of ...
Nay H.R. 83 (113th): Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015
Dec 11, 2014. Passed 219/206.
This bill became the vehicle for passage of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 [pdf], which was approved by the House on December 11, 2014 and by the Senate on December 13, 2014. The bill was originally introduced on January 3, 2013 by ...
No H.J.Res. 124 (113th): Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015
Sep 17, 2014. Passed 319/108.
Nay H.R. 1765 (113th): Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013
Apr 26, 2013. Passed 361/41.
Aye H.R. 1249 (112th): Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
Jun 23, 2011. Passed 304/117.
The Leahy–Smith America Invents Act (AIA) is a United States federal statute that was passed by Congress and was signed into law by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. The law represents the most significant change to the U.S. patent system since 1952, and ...
Nay H.Res. 317 (111th): Recognizing the region from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, as the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, and ...
Sep 15, 2009. Passed 312/108.

Missed Votes

From Jan 1997 to Mar 2018, McGovern missed 226 of 14,309 roll call votes, which is 1.6%. This is better than the median of 2.3% among the lifetime records of representatives currently serving. The chart below reports missed votes over time.

Show the numbers...

Time PeriodVotes EligibleMissed VotesPercentPercentile
1997 Jan-Mar7145.6%70th
1997 Apr-Jun17400.0%0th
1997 Jul-Sep23210.4%13th
1997 Oct-Nov16300.0%0th
1998 Jan-Mar8911.1%24th
1998 Apr-Jun18531.6%41st
1998 Jul-Sep19942.0%48th
1998 Oct-Dec74912.2%98th
1999 Jan-Mar7745.2%77th
1999 Apr-Jun18421.1%27th
1999 Jul-Sep20400.0%0th
1999 Oct-Nov14610.7%23rd
2000 Jan-Mar9500.0%0th
2000 Apr-Jun27710.4%15th
2000 Jul-Sep13000.0%0th
2000 Oct-Dec10198.9%62nd
2001 Jan-Mar7500.0%0th
2001 Apr-Jun13543.0%61st
2001 Jul-Sep14921.3%41st
2001 Oct-Dec15321.3%34th
2002 Jan-Mar7900.0%0th
2002 Apr-Jun20300.0%0th
2002 Jul-Sep14100.0%0th
2002 Oct-Nov6111.6%41st
2003 Jan-Mar9400.0%0th
2003 Apr-Jun23910.4%19th
2003 Jul-Sep19331.6%44th
2003 Oct-Dec15142.6%40th
2004 Jan-Mar10411.0%20th
2004 Apr-Jun22141.8%40th
2004 Jul-Sep16185.0%63rd
2004 Oct-Dec58610.3%82nd
2005 Jan-Mar9033.3%50th
2005 Apr-Jun27200.0%0th
2005 Jul-Sep14600.0%0th
2005 Oct-Dec16353.1%54th
2006 Jan-Mar8100.0%0th
2006 Apr-Jun27631.1%26th
2006 Jul-Sep15942.5%59th
2006 Nov-Dec2700.0%0th
2007 Jan-Mar21310.5%20th
2007 Apr-Jun393102.5%69th
2007 Jul-Sep31720.6%16th
2007 Oct-Dec26341.5%29th
2008 Jan-Mar14932.0%33rd
2008 Apr-Jun32151.6%31st
2008 Jul-Sep20500.0%0th
2008 Oct-Dec1500.0%0th
2009 Jan-Mar17421.1%36th
2009 Apr-Jun30382.6%58th
2009 Jul-Sep26862.2%61st
2009 Oct-Dec246166.5%82nd
2010 Jan-Mar19521.0%24th
2010 Apr-Jun21931.4%28th
2010 Jul-Sep15110.7%21st
2010 Nov-Dec9911.0%21st
2011 Jan-Mar21200.0%0th
2011 Apr-Jun28100.0%0th
2011 Jul-Sep24731.2%43rd
2011 Oct-Dec20852.4%57th
2012 Jan-Mar15100.0%0th
2012 Apr-Jun29920.7%34th
2012 Jul-Sep15210.7%32nd
2012 Nov-Dec5123.9%56th
2013 Jan-Jan500.0%0th
2013 Jan-Mar8911.1%42nd
2013 Apr-Jun21562.8%64th
2013 Jul-Sep20021.0%42nd
2013 Oct-Dec13700.0%0th
2014 Jan-Mar14800.0%0th
2014 Apr-Jun219104.6%75th
2014 Jul-Sep14710.7%28th
2014 Nov-Dec4924.1%76th
2015 Jan-Mar14400.0%0th
2015 Apr-Jun24431.2%50th
2015 Jul-Sep13900.0%0th
2015 Oct-Dec17763.4%78th
2016 Jan-Mar13785.8%68th
2016 Apr-Jun20410.5%19th
2016 Jul-Sep23231.3%55th
2016 Nov-Dec4800.0%0th
2017 Jan-Mar20821.0%36th
2017 Apr-Jun13610.7%31st
2017 Jul-Sep19900.0%0th
2017 Oct-Dec167116.6%83rd
2018 Jan-Mar10122.0%45th

Primary Sources

The information on this page is originally sourced from a variety of materials, including:

James “Jim” McGovern is pronounced:

jaymz // muh-GUV-ern

The letters stand for sounds according to the following table:

LetterSounds As In
AY aysay
ER erher
G gget
J jjam
M mman
N nnot
U ucup
UH uhcup
V vvan
Z zzebra

Capital letters indicate a stressed syllable.

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