How a Bill Really Becomes a Law: The Governor’s Three Options

The only step remaining in this year’s legislative process belongs to Governor Jim Justice. Photo by Perry Bennett, Legislative Photographer.


Once a bill makes it through both houses of the Legislature, it’s got one final hurdle to jump before officially making it across the finish line — a trip across the Governor’s desk.

Currently, there are 227 bills sitting in a queue awaiting action from Governor Justice. The time bills have in this queue presents the last opportunity for citizen advocates to intervene in the process by either expressing support for or opposition to legislation.

When evaluating whether or not to sign a bill, a Governor has a very specific timeline they must follow. If the Legislature is in session, the Governor has five days to approve or veto any bill they receive. After the Session ends though, they can take up to 15 days to deliberate before taking action, except if the bill deals with the budget or supplemental appropriations, in which case they still only gets 5 days to make a decision.

During this deliberation period, the Governor is deciding between three choices — approve, veto, or ignore.

If the Governor likes a bill, they can simply sign their name and the bill will become law on the effective date listed in the legislation. Governor Justice took this step early on in the Session when he signed SB 263, which eliminated the film tax credit, into law.

If the Governor does not like a bill, they have the authority to veto it and prevent it from becoming law. Although the Governor has yet to veto a bill this year, buzz around his deliberation over whether or not to sign a bill eliminating the Department of Education and the Arts has continued to mount as he approaches his deadline to make a decision.

For regular bills, the Legislature is able to override this veto power with a majority vote. In the case of the budget or supplemental appropriations bills, though, it takes a two-thirds vote from both houses to override the veto.

In the case that the Governor doesn’t take action before these deadlines, the bill automatically becomes a law without his or her signature.

Governor Justice plans to take this course of action on a bill regarding sports betting passed this Session. In conversation with news personality Hoppy Kercheval on Monday, Justice said he wanted to avoid the appearance of impropriety because of his ownership of the Greenbrier Resort, which has a casino that stands to benefit from the bill’s passage.

Keep posted on which actions are being taken on bills using this section of the Legislature’s website.

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