Possible Reforms to California’s Legislative Process


Today’s podcast is looking at some possible reforms to California’s legislative process.

Capitol observers often complain about a number of procedural aspects of California’s lawmaking process. So, what I did was undertook a very informal poll by asking a number of my lobbying colleagues, as well as staff in the Legislature from both sides of the aisle and in both the Senate and the Assembly, and asked them for suggestions on how to make the process operate better, or more efficiently.

By far the most common criticisms that were lodged by both lobbyists and staff focused on the state budget process. The second most common one was how legislative committees operate.

The most commonly cited reform would be to require the Budget Conference Committee to follow the general rule of all conference committees which is that a bill or issue cannot be considered in the budget as part of a budget trailer bill unless that subject matter has been heard and approved in the policy committee that has jurisdiction over the subject matter in both houses of the Legislature. In other words, budget trailer bills should have to be heard and voted upon in policy committees in addition to being passed by the relevant budget subcommittees.

A number of capitol observers were also surprised by how many state agency department budgets are actually placed on the consent calendar on a budget subcommittee’s agenda, which means that the department’s budget gets lumped in with a number of other items that are resolved with a single vote and never actually even heard or considered.

When it comes to legislative committees, the most common reforms mentioned relate to the so-called two-and-two rule. Currently, the rule means that a committee limits two proponents and two opponents to speak as a matter of substance on a bill which, of course, reduces the amount of substantive testimony that can be provided by legislative committees. Most observers that I informally surveyed suggested eliminating the rule. Most of the folks I surveyed said that substantive testimony should not generally be limited by the policy committees, particularly when a bill is in its house of origin in its first policy committee hearing, as opposed to when it’s in the other house.

I cover more proposed reforms in the full audio. I hope you enjoy.