Comparing Congress and the California Legislature

Today’s podcast will explore some of the differences between Congress and the California Legislature.

Obviously, the California Legislature is based upon the United State Congress, and certainly, both are prominently featured in the state and federal constitutions. We’ll start with some similarities that I highlight in the audio before moving on to discussing a few of the differences.

Both the US Congress and the California Legislature make laws. They both have investigatory powers. They adopt state budgets. Their Senates confirm executive branch appointments. In both Congress and the California Legislature, the political parties and the party leaders dictate most of what happens in the legislative process, as well as the ultimate outcome of legislation.

Let’s move on to some differences. The most obvious is size. The US Congress has 100 Senators and 435 Representatives; the California Legislature has 40 State Senators, and 80 Assembly Members – the equivalent of a Member of the House of Representatives.

Another difference is term limits. In the California Legislature, legislators are restricted to serving only 12 years, either all in one house or split between the two. There are no term limits in Congress.

A procedural difference between the two bodies is the filibuster. In the US Senate, a minority of senators can forestall legislation by use of the filibuster – an unending debate, which can bring the entire operation of the US Senate to a standstill unless there is a cloture motion. For a cloture motion to succeed, there needs to 60 votes in favor. In the California Legislature, there is no filibuster.

I go into greater detail with other differences between these two legislative bodies in the full podcast. I hope you’ll give that a listen and enjoy.

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