The Role of Leadership Staff (transcript)

Today’s post is on the role of leadership staff in the lawmaking process.

As you probably are familiar, there are four legislative leaders representing the two political parties in the two houses of the California Legislature. These four individuals are elected by their respective members.

In addition, for the Assembly Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore their elections are confirmed by a majority of their respective houses after their caucus members have nominated them for that office.

The two minority leaders of the Assembly and Senate are elected to their respective positions by their caucus members, rather than the entire legislative house.

Staff for these four legislative leaders play a critical role in ensuring that the legislative process goes smoothly during the entire legislative session. As you know, the Legislature considers and votes upon thousands of bills as well as the state budget and a number of corresponding trailer bills to that budget. These staff members, like their four bosses, must balance competing interests all the while keeping their respective caucus members happy and supportive. Many have described this process as akin to herding cats.

Both leaders have large policy staff who are assigned several policy committees to keep tabs on. These individuals must monitor the activities of the policy and fiscal committees for which they have jurisdiction, become involved in the major bills as they make their way through the legislative process, certainly ensure that the caucus priorities are being attained, and apprise the house’s leader regarding any problematic issues or measures. These policy consultants for the Assembly Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem report to their respective Policy Director that’s housed in the Speaker’s Office or the Pro Tem’s office.

The Policy Director in each house is an individual who oversees the policy consultants and is the main liaison between the caucus members and the house leader on pending legislation. The Policy Director is an experienced individual with years of service in the Legislature who has been exposed to numerous policy issues and fully appreciates the political and policy implications of pending legislation in the major public policy issues facing the state of California.

Also serving the two house leaders are Budget Directors, found in the Assembly Speaker’s office and the Senate President Pro Tem’s office. The Budget Directors ensure that the caucus priorities are reflected in the budget bill and corresponding trailer bills that follow them. These individual staffers know the ins and outs of the state budget, the legislative and budget processes themselves, and they’ve usually served on the Budget Committee staff for years prior to being named to be the Budget Director.

These individuals help negotiate the budget’s provisions, certainly when they require the involvement of the leaders – the Speaker and the Pro Tem. These individuals naturally work very closely with the Governor’s staff and the senior leadership of the Department of Finance.

Both of the legislative leaders have Press Secretaries and communications individuals. These persons serve as a liaison with the Capitol Press Corps, and they certainly work to ensure that the media cover the top issues and legislation in the best light for the majority and minority parties.

These individuals have often been journalists themselves. Sometimes they’ve worked on campaign press operations. But they most certainly have an appreciation for the role the media play in the legislative process.