What Is a Legislation Amendment?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2019
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A legislation amendment is a change to a law created by a governing body. This change can happen during the discussion and writing process, but after the law/bill has first been submitted or after final approval. Such amendments, like the legislation as a whole, require a majority vote in order to be enacted. Each country has a different system of scrutinizing and amending legislation.

New laws created by a politician, group or even individuals are known as pieces of legislation. These are typically voted upon by an elected chamber. Laws passed by more dictatorial regimes tend to not allow a legislation amendment to occur. Some legislation is passed with little scrutiny or change, but others are altered considerably during the process.

American legislation is amended in the Senate and the House of Representatives at the committee level or on the voting floor during discussions. It is then approved or rejected by the sitting president of the day. In Britain, the House of Commons creates the law, discusses it and makes amendments, then passes it to the House of Lords. The Lords can either accept the law or suggest changes and send it back to the Commons for revision. Once both houses pass the law, it is up to the reigning monarch to pass it into law; no monarch has rejected a piece of legislation since 1708.


Amendments tend to be proposed by one or more members of an elected chamber during committee scrutiny or discussions. Legislation amendment takes three forms: the altering of, adding of or removal of words and clauses within the bill. Each proposed change requires the majority of people present on the committee or in the chamber to approve it.

The Equal Rights Act of 1964 is an example of a much changed piece of legislation. The original bill was proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, before his assassination. The bill was strengthened during the House of Representatives’ committee stage to protect women as well as racial minorities and to strengthen measures the Attorney General could take to prevent abuses of powers against peaceful protestors.

In 1964, the new President, Lyndon Johnson, saw the bill move on into the Senate and to a greater level of opposition from Southern Senators. Major amendments and a watering down of the whole bill were required in order to break a filibuster designed to send the legislation into limbo. It is an example of a legislation amendment that cut up a bill, but then saved it.

The Patriot Act of 2001, enacted by George W. Bush a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is an example of a complicated bill that had little legislation amendment during the legislation process. Removals and amendments came later during judicial proceedings, showing that legal challenges as well as legislative procedures can change a piece of legislation. Judge Marrero, in 2007, removed the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) right to issue National Security Letters (NSLs) in order to obtain personal information. In the same year, another judge removed the ‘sneak and peek’ powers contained in the Patriot Act.


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