While some aspects of drafting bills and amendments in California are certainly generic in nature to all types of legislative bill drafting, there are several unique aspects that are a part of bill drafting in the state of California. In general, those individuals drafting bills and amendments should keep in mind the general rules of statutory construction. For example, there’s the usual plain meaning rule where the judiciary will look to the “plain meaning” of the statutory language. Of course, in a legal dispute, the statutory language rarely has the same plain meaning to both parties of that dispute.

On the other hand, if there is ambiguity in the statutory language, then extrinsic aids can be used to help the judiciary interpreting the bill language. Those who draft and analyze bill language are aware that there are many other canons of statutory construction, but after these general rules, bill drafters in California need to think about some of the following other issues such as conflicts with other bills. Here are some other aspects to consider.

Retroactive Versus Prospective Nature of the Bills

As you’re probably aware, in most instances, bills are prospective in their application. Most bills in California are effective on January 1 of the following year. However, in some instances a bill’s provisions are intended to be applied retroactively. In those circumstances, the bill drafter needs to review the key rules for drafting bill language that will be applied retroactively.

For example, what effective date is contemplated? Should the bill drafter include a statement that the bill clarifies existing law? Moreover, in the case of tax law changes, retroactive bills of more than one year are generally prohibited unless a public purpose is expressed in the bill language that justifies the retroactive application of the bill’s provisions.

Legislative Intent Language

Some bills include intent language which expresses the findings and declarations of the Legislature regarding what the bill’s changes are intended to do. The bill drafter should consider the pros and the cons of using intent language. The following is one appellate court statement on the use of such language. “That two legislators report contradictory legislative intent fortifies judicial reticence to rely on statements made by individual members of the Legislature as an expression of the intent of the entire body.” That was in Ballard v. Anderson back in 1971. They also said that other extrinsic aids to determine legislative intent are generally more persuasive.

There are other aspects that are unique to bill drafting in California, but these highlighted ones give you a sense of some of the factors to consider when drafting bills and amendments in California.

You can find a transcript of today’s podcast here.

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