3) Adopting the Policy
The actual implementation of policy can occur several different ways. It may occur through a presidential mandate or a court ruling, such as the important policy that allowed companies to patent genetic material (Diamond v. Chakrabarty). However, most significant environmental regulation has to go through Congress and come in the form of laws. This process is another beast in itself. Here are the basic steps:
1) Bill Introduction: any member of congress drafts a bill or a proposal for one and submits it in their own legislative body. For example, in 2009, a bill was introduced into Congress to propose a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions.
2) Committee: This is the longest and most involved step. Both houses of congress include several committees that are involved in environmental policy (see Part 3 of this series). These committees consist of various politicians whose districts, typically, have some particular interest in that given issue area. For instance, the Agricultural committees are mostly made up of midwesten Congressman. In committee, the Congressmen consult with professionals, write up, discuss, and edit the bill. Often times the bulk of this work occurs in even smaller groups (normally just a few people), the subcommittees. They get outside opinion and information through hearings, where groups and scientists will often testify to provide politicians with assistance. When you hear of Congress "working hard to refine a bill" it is normally in this stage of the process, where the refinement occurs.
3) Floor: Once a bill has been put together it is taken to the Floor of the House and Senate. In the Senate, unlimited time is allotted to discuss the bill while in House time is limited. The right to edit the bill is still largely in the hands of the committee who drafted it--often if a bill is not received well on the floor it will go through several iterations of committee and floor activity. Once it is ready, the bill is put up for a vote
4) President: If a bill wins a majority vote it will then go to the president, who has the option to veto. This immense power (it takes 2/3 majority to override a veto--since when can you get all 2/3 of Congress to agree?), shapes the whole process from the beginning--Congressmen must draft a bill that the president will approve otherwise their efforts are wasted.
If the bill makes it through all of these steps it becomes a law.