Bills, Amendments, & Resolutions – Part 1 (transcript)

Today, and next Monday, we’re taking a look at bills, amendments to bills, constitutional amendments, and resolutions.

In the California State Capitol, there are three types of measures that can be considered by lawmakers ‑‑ bills, constitutional amendments, and resolutions. All of them are printed by the Office of State Publishing, and they’re all made available, usually that night online, and the next day in the Bill Room, found in the basement of the California State Capitol.

Let’s look first at bills. Bills make statutes, and statutes are law. Generally, no bill, except the state budget bill, may be heard by any committee or acted upon by either house until it’s been in print for a minimum of 30 days. This rule, like many legislative rules, can be waived with a three‑fourths vote of the house of origin.

Only legislators of the Assembly or the Senate can author bills. We have a bicameral legislature, so bills must be passed by both houses of the legislature, and then acted upon by the Governor. Our Governor can sign bills, he or she can veto bills, or they have a pocket signature that can allow bills to become law without his or her signature.

Remember statutes, or laws, can only be enacted through bills. I go through the many types of bills in the podcast. There are quite a few.

What are the actual provisions of a bill? At the top of the bill, you’ll find the introduction date and the amendment, or amendment dates where there are multiple amendments. Each date is listed at the top, so you know, easily, what version of the bill you’re dealing with.

Then, of course, comes the bill number. The bill number itself is on the right‑hand side of the bill. Whether it’s an Assembly Bill or a Senate Bill is on the left‑hand side. Then, the principal author of the bill is listed. Of course, if there are any co‑authors, their names are listed under the bill’s author, and that’s done in alphabetical order.

Next comes the date. After the date, comes the title. The title identifies the code section or code sections of the bill that are being affected. It contains what they call a relating clause. “This is a bill relating to transportation,” for example.

After the title and the relating clause comes the Legislative Counsel’s Digest. The Legislative Counsel are the Legislature’s lawyers, and they must draft every bill and every amendment. In the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, they succinctly set forth a brief summary of existing law, and it says, “Existing law provides…”

At the end of the Legislative Counsel Digest are what is called the vote keys. These identify the vote required to pass the bill, whether the bill makes an appropriation or not, whether the bill is fiscal, and therefore will be heard in a fiscal committee, and the fourth key is whether the bill contains a state‑mandated local program.

Then by law, by the Constitution, every bill must have an enacting clause. Therefore, at the start of every bill, it says, “The people of the State of California do enact, as follows…,” and then the bill itself is set forth.

Finally, comes that actual bill language. The bill language is easy to follow, because language that is being repealed is in strike‑out text showing the words to be deleted or repealed, and italicized words are new provisions to the law, so it’s relatively easy to track.

This is to be continued. Next week we’ll talk about constitutional amendments and resolutions.