How Does a Bill Become Law?

Understanding the legislative process is a first step in advocating for public policy as it relates to laws and regulations affecting dietetics practice.

There are five stages of public policy-making: [1]

  1. Problem recognition and definition. Usually takes place after an undesirable social condition grabs public attention, i.e. obesity.
  2. Setting the issue on the political agenda. After a problem is identified and acknowledged, policy makers may place it on their agenda depending on its importance.
  3. Formulation of a policy. Requires a supportive political climate and sound information – registered dietitians play key roles in providing evidence-based and experiential information to policy makers.
  4. Policy implementation. After a policy has been enacted, regulations are written, money appropriated, enforcement procedures put into place, and action plans formulated. All Washington state regulations are recorded in the Washington Administrative Code. All federal regulations are published in the Federal Register and when finalized recorded in the Code Federal Regulations.
  5. Policy evaluation. Policies usually include provisions for evaluation to determine effectiveness. The state also provides oversight of state regulation and Congress provides oversight of federal regulations.

Washington State Public Policy Process

The state Legislature is responsible for preparing and considering state legislation. There are 16 standing committees in the Senate and 25 in the House of Representatives. Additionally, there is one select committee in each House and various congressional commissions and joint committees including members of both houses.

Learn How a State Bill Becomes a Law

Federal Public Policy Process

Congress is responsible for preparing and considering federal legislation. There are 16 standing committees in the Senate and 20 in the House of Representatives. Additionally, there are two select committees in each House and various congressional commissions and joint committees including members of both houses. [2]

Learn How a Federal Bill Becomes a Law

Learn How an Idea Becomes Law (pictorial)


[1] Adapted from Sims, LS. The Politics of Fat. Food and Nutrition Policy in America. M.E. Sharpe, New York, N.Y. 1998.

[2] Adapted from: Public Policy in Dietetics: A Guide to Policy Formation and Policy Participation by, Esther Winterfeldt, PhD, RD