Scanning the substantive provisions of a bill for certain features can help you learn valuable information quickly.
Here are some tips on what to look for:
Look for underlined or bracketed language with strike-throughs. (In the session laws, new language is indicated by italics rather than underlining.) Simply noticing the amount and placement of underlined or italicized text and bracketed text will give you an idea of the bill's complexity.
Definitions can help determine the scope of a bill and provide clues about its focus. What agencies or entities are involved? Is the bill directed at a particular group?
Is the bill adding or amending just one section or article of the statutes? Is it adding or amending a subsection? Is it adding an entire subchapter or chapter? Is it making a series of similar changes to sections in different codes or different chapters of one code?
Often a bill makes a single substantive change to the law that makes related changes necessary in other sections of law. These related changes, known as conforming changes, are often easy to spot because they involve multiple insertions or deletions of the same words or phrases. For example, if the name of an agency is changed, every reference to the agency throughout the codes must be changed to conform to the new name.
Identify such changes and move on. Don't spend time examining every instance of a revision that is not substantively changing the statute.
Read the provisions that the bill repeals. Do the repealers represent conforming or substantive changes? Is the bill replacing one chapter or subchapter with another?
Understanding the context of the change to law made by the bill is essential to understanding the change.
Consider the following example:
Sec. 214.194. MUNICIPAL PERMIT FEE GENERALLY. (a) If a municipality adopts an ordinance that requires a person to pay an annual fee to obtain a permit from the municipality before the person may use an alarm system in the municipality, the fee shall be used for the general administration of this subchapter ....
(b) A municipal permit fee imposed under this section may not exceed the rate of $50 a year for a residential location.
Sec. 214.1915. APPLICABILITY. This subchapter applies only to a municipality with a population of less than 100,000 that is located wholly in a county with a population of less than 500,000.
The alarm system permit fee charged by a municipality with a population of less than 100,000 that is located wholly in a county with a population of less than 500,000 may not be more than $50 per year.