What Are the Different Types of Legislation?

In the United States, there are four basic types of legislation: bills, resolutions, constitutional amendments and ballot measures. Bills become laws through the legislative processes at federal, state and local levels, whereas resolutions are collective actions taken by legislators. U.S. constitutional amendments start in Congress before going to states for approval, and ballot measures are added to state and local issues by initiative petitions from citizens or by legislatures.

In Congress, bills are the most common form of legislative proposals. Public bills pertain to classes of citizens or to the country’s policies as a whole, and private bills deal with individuals or certain organizations. A bill must pass both chambers of Congress and gain presidential approval.

Resolutions don’t have the force of law and don’t require the president’s signature. Concurrent resolutions amend the rules of the House of Representatives and Senate, offer opinions of the chambers and set budgetary goals for the upcoming fiscal year.

Constitutional amendments on the federal level start as bills in Congress that don’t need the president’s signature. After congressional passage, the federal amendment goes to the states for acceptance or denial. On the state level, constitutional amendments can be proposed by state legislatures and ordinary citizens before going to a vote of the people.

Ballot measures are approved or denied by voters after being placed on general ballots by statute, initiative petitions by citizens, or recall petitions submitted by citizens. Ballot measures pass or fail by different margins depending upon state laws; for instance, tax increases or constitutional amendments may need greater approval rates than other issues.