What is a Public Bill?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2018
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In the United States, bills are the most common form of legislative proposals. According to the U.S. Senate, public bills pertain to matters that affect the general public or classes of citizens. While the legislative process may differ to some degree in other countries, public bills generally serve the same purpose. These proposals normally originate and proceed through an acceptance process in one of the two parts of a country’s legislature. They must then be reviewed and accepted by the other legislative body before being signed into law.

In democratic societies, it is common for laws to be imposed following a legislative process. Such a process generally involves the drafting of bills that are proposed laws. These proposals can be divided into two major categories, public and private.

To grasp the concept of a public bill, it may be helpful to compare it to a private bill. When people consider laws, they often think of regulations that apply to everyone who is within a given jurisdiction. There are indeed such regulations in society, such as those that prohibit murder and vandalism or that require the payment of income taxes.

The U.S. Senate describes private bills, on the contrary, as those that affect only certain individuals or organizations. Such groups may include corporations or immigrants. In many cases, the aim of a private bill is to seek special relief or privilege, which is often counter to public law.

Governments that make use of public bills normally have two legislative bodies. In the U.K., for example, there are the House of Commons and the House of Lords. A bill is usually drafted by one body or the other. If the House of Commons, for instance, is the legislative body embarking on the mission to get a proposal passed, it will subject the bill to a series of actions within its house.

Once a public bill successfully passes through the required procedures among the body where it was created, it is sent to the other legislative body. In this case, the House of Common would introduce its proposed law to the House of Lords. There, the public bill would once again be subjected to a process that is necessary prior to acceptance.

The ultimate goal of creating and distributing a public bill is to have a law created. The contents of a bill do not affect the public until it has been signed into law. Some bills never make it to this stage. In many countries, however, the fact that the idea was proposed is recorded and becomes a matter of public record. Before final decisions are made, it may also be possible to track the progress that a public bill is making.


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