Misconception Monday – Committee Hearings

Today’s Misconception Monday podcast concerns committee hearings. Before we dive in, remember that you can find all my Misconception Monday podcasts here.

Today’s first misconception has to do with the legislative calendar, which states, “No committees may meet during the last two weeks of session,” but that isn’t always the case.

With a rule waiver, policy committees can meet during this time period. Further, under Senate Rule 29.10 and Assembly Rule 77.2, when dealing with bills that have been substantially amended in the other house that are referred back to a policy committee hearing, those committees are not subject to the prohibition.

Another misconception is that supermajority vote bills must pass out of committee by a supermajority vote. This is not the case. The supermajority vote specification by Legislative Counsel only applies to floor votes in the California Legislature. All bills require only a majority vote to pass out of committee.

Another important misconception is that a committee can pass a bill based on the majority of the committee members present and voting. The majority vote requirement applies to the full membership of the committee, not just the members present. So, if a standing committee has nine members, five votes are required to pass a bill from that committee, even if only seven members are present to vote on it due to abstentions or absences.

There is also the misconception that both the Assembly and the Senate fill vacancies on committees for hearings. While the Speaker of the Assembly may appoint replacements for a committee hearing when a member is absent for the day that is only a custom and practice of the Assembly. The Senate Rules Committee does not fill absent slots for committee hearings.

The last misconception that I will cover here – you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear the rest – is that a Committee Chair cannot preside at a committee hearing on a bill for which he or she is the author. This is the general rule, with one key exception. That exception is when the Budget Committee is hearing the budget bill, of which the Budget Committee Chair is the author.