The committees of the California Legislature can conduct several types of hearings including bill hearings, investigative or oversight hearings, and informational hearings. Most hearings have a similar purpose, which is to educate the legislators and their staff about the subject matter that has come before them for consideration. Bill hearings are obviously those that are conducted to hear specific bills, however, there are informational hearings beyond those that hear, consider, and vote upon legislation or bills.
Informational hearings are used to gather information about the subject matter at the particular hearing, often in preparation for consideration of future legislation. The Chair of the committee, as well as the members or the staff of the committee generally come up with the subject matter of the hearing. Sometimes a hearing will be held prior to the introduction of the bill as a means, or for the purpose, of gathering specific information that the committee can then turn around and use in shaping the particular legislation.
Another type of hearing by the Legislature is to conduct oversight, or investigations, generally of the executive branch of state government. In these hearings, the committee might consider whether there’s some concern about how an executive branch agency or department is administering a particular program. Or perhaps the committee has a concern about how a law is being interpreted or enforced.
Some observers distinguish oversight from investigative hearings. For example, in an investigative hearing, there may be an allegation of wrongdoing by a public official, and that is the subject of the investigative hearing. This hearing could be of an adversarial nature rather than one of information gathering.
There are also confirmation hearings, which are generally only held by the State Senate, except those rare instances when both houses of the Legislature must consider a gubernatorial appointment of a constitutional officer. The confirmation hearings are generally conducted by the Senate Committee on Rules to provide advice and consent on the gubernatorial appointments that have been made.
You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.