Legislation: Types, Path, Staff, and Analysis
Types of Legislation
Bills – A formal proposal to change current law or create a new law; may be introduced in either house; must be read by title three times on three separate days in each house. Bills must follow a specific committee process in both houses. Most bills require a majority vote to pass; however certain bills- Budget Bill, appropriation and revenue bills, urgency measures require two-thirds vote and are subject to the Governor’s approval.
Resolutions – do not require gubernatorial action and he/she does not have veto authority on these measures.
Constitutional Amendments – A proposal to amend the State Constitution. May be offered by either house and requires two-thirds vote in both houses for adoption; must then be ratified by a majority of the State’s voters to become effective.
Concurrent Resolutions -These resolutions may be offered in either house and must be adopted by both houses in order to become effective; however, they require only a majority vote in each house and do not involve voter ratification.
Joint Resolutions -These may be offered in either house and require a majority vote in each house for adoption. Joint Resolutions are used to convey the Legislature’s stands on public issues to governmental agencies outside of California.
House Resolutions -These measures may be either Senate or Assembly Resolutions and are independent actions relating to the specific house. In many cases, they may be adopted by acclamation and may require only a majority of voting members for adoption. Other cases may require two-thirds vote.
Path of Legislation
First Reading – After an author develops an idea for legislation drafting of legislation begins. This language is prepared by Legislative Counsel in a specific format. At the First Reading the title is read, a bill number is assigned and the bill is assigned to a Standing Committee. (There are 27 standing committees in the Assembly and 25 standing committees in the Senate.) The Rules Committee decides to which standing committee a bill is assigned. This first occurs in the house of origin then in the other house.
Committee Hearings – The bills are studied and scrutinized within committee. There is a thirty-day waiting period after introduction before the bill may be heard or acted upon. Bills are first heard in a policy committee appropriate to the subject matter of the bill. If a bill carries an appropriation or has fiscal implications, it goes before a fiscal committee in the Assembly it is the Ways and Means Committee in the Senate it is the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. Bills are frequently heard by at least two Committees in each house.
Second Reading – After the bill has been discussed and analyzed in all the pertinent committees, it again goes to the floor of the house (where the bill originated) for a Second Reading. Again it is just the title that is read. There is typically little to no debate at this point. If there are amendments, either recommended by the committee or from the Floor, they are acted upon at this time. After the amendments, the bill may go back to committee, if not then it goes to the Second Reading file if it is an Assembly bill and to Third reading if it is a Senate bill. If there are no amendments the bill moves to Third Reading. If there has been no opposition to the bill in committee it can go straight from second reading to the Consent Calendar.
Third Reading – On the last reading, bills are debated and may be amended again. Most bills must pass by majority; others like the Budget Bill must pass by two-thirds. Once it passes the House of origin it goes to the next House and follows the same process. Once a bill passes both houses it goes to the Governor for approval or veto.
Conference Committee – If the second house amends the bill the house of origin must concur if they do not a Conference Committee is formed comprised of members from both houses to try to come to a consensus. The committee can be called three times. If the third effort fails the bill dies.
Governor’s Action – The bill may be signed by the Governor or vetoed. The legislature can then override the veto by two-thirds vote. There are two instances when the bill can pass without action by the governor. If the governor does not return a bill within 12 days of receiving it, it automatically becomes statute. During the second year, bills passed before September 1 and in the possession of the Governor on or after September 1, must be signed or vetoed by September 30, or they become statues without his/her signature.
Key Legislative Staff
Legislative Counsel – The Legislative Counsel is the Legislature’s legal advisor. It is one person with an extensive staff. The Counsel prepares most of the bills, resolution, and amendments considered in any legislative session. This office also prepares the digest, which accompanies each bill’s text and summarizes its provisions. Even if the Legislative Counsel did not draft the text, the introduction and a digest showing changes to existing law must be written by the Counsel. The Counsel will also prepare opinions and legal analysis concerning existing law and proposed legislation for the Legislature, its Committees and members. The Counsel and his/her employees are prohibited from supporting or opposing legislation.
Legislative Analyst – The legislative Analyst serves as the Legislature’s primary source of budgetary and fiscal information. This office assists the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee in consideration of the Budget, all appropriation bills and all legislation affecting state departments and their efficiency. Each year they prepare an analysis of the Budget Bill. They also prepare an analysis of each State ballot proposition for the official ballot pamphlet for statewide elections.
Auditor General – The Auditor General is a Certified Public Accountant. Their primary duties are to examine and report annually on the financial statements prepared by the State’s Executive Branch. The Auditor General has full access to all records and property of State Agencies, as well as other public entities that receive state funds.
Secretary of the Senate and Chief Clerk of the Assembly – Essentially have the same function. They attend every session; call roll; giving official reading to all communications, bills and amendments; keeping an accurate record of proceedings; overseeing all printing and clerical work; certifying and transmitting to the other house all measures and Papers as required by the Rules; signing all bills before they are presented to the Governor; and acting as a watch dog of procedure, clarifying and interpreting the Rules, precedents and prevailing customs when called upon to do so.
Gather Background Information – Try to understand the situation, which initially generated the legislative bill at hand. Legislation is a function of politics. Therefore, an understanding of whose interests are being advanced, the goals of the legislation and the compromises already a part of the legislation are essential before the bill can be analyzed effectively.
Careful examination of the Bill – Find all referenced Code Sections be it State or federal. What is the context? Where does the bill’s language fit? Is it all new or is it a change in existing wording? Try to understand what the bill does. Find all the “mandate” words and statements i.e. those that prohibit, allow or requires something. Look for conflicts with other legislation of existing law. Is there a hidden agenda? What is the fiscal impact?
Don’t forget the politics: Who are the co-authors? Is there an urgency clause? (This requires the bill to come into effect as soon as the Governor signs it. The urgency clause it must be voted before the bill is passed and requires a two-thirds vote.) What are the budget implications? Are there any exceptions?
Ultimate Goals: Identify whom will be affected, directly and indirectly, and determine the nature and extent of the impact. The object is to avoid surprises when the bill becomes law. Will this law have a serious impact on our organization so we can determine the appropriate position to take on a given bill?
GLOSSARY OF TERMS