McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

An important part of the California legislative process involves the preparation of analyses for legislators when considering bills. All of the committees, both policy and fiscal, prepare analyses of measures then the floors before the process repeats itself in the opposite house.

When reviewing bill analyses, an observer quickly notes the different approaches taken both among the policy committees and the two houses of the California Legislature. Fiscal committee analyses are generally brief, usually one page, but sometimes two to four pages depending on the particulars of the bill because their focus is on the fiscal impact of the bill rather than the policy of the measure. On the other hand, policy committee analyses can run multiple pages usually five to ten pages. There are some policy committees such as the judiciary committees whose in-depth analyses of bills that come before their committees can easily be 20 to 30 pages or more in length.

Now while the format may be different among the committees and the two houses of the Legislature, they generally follow these component parts: the number and author, the subject matter, a brief summary of what the bill does, an explanation of the problem being targeted, a discussion of existing law, a discussion of how this particular bill proposes to change that law, the author’s statement for the need for his or her bill, a summary of the support arguments, a summary of the opposition arguments, perhaps prior legislation on the topic, any pending legislation and generally a list of supporters and opponents.

There are two criticisms that are occasionally voiced about these bill analyses. The first is that the analyses often do not consider other options to address the identified problem. In other words, the bill analysis will analyze the problem in the proposed solution as contained in the bill that’s before the committee or the floor. In other words, they often don’t consider what other options there are instead of this particular bill. In addition, the bill analyses are generally limited to explaining existing law, how the particular bill proposes to change the law and what arguments are made for and against doing the bill its provisions.

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