McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

During the legislative session there are more than 2,500 bills usually introduced and hundreds of these are spot bills or intent bills. So what are they are why are they used?

According to California’s Legislative Counsel, a spot bill is one that does not make any substantive change to the law and would not otherwise affect the ongoing operations of a state or local government. Generally, spot bills are not referred to policy committees unless they are amended to make substantive changes to have some sort of an effect.

The process of handling spot bills is different between the Assembly and the Senate. In the State Senate, amendments to the spot bills must be provided to the Senate Committee on Rules. The Rules Committee then amends the bill and refers it to the relevant policy committee or policy committees.

In the Assembly, the amendments to spot bills are submitted to the Assembly Committee on Rules. However based upon the Rules Committee’s reading of the proposed amendments, the Rules Committee refers the bill amendments and the bill itself to the relevant policy committee, and then the policy committee is the one that processes the amendments to that bill.


Why might a spot bill be used?

Generally, it is because the language is not yet ready for prime time. In other words, an author may know that he or she wants to do something, for example in transportation or something affecting the penal code, but the specifics of the language have not been finalized, or the specifics of the proposed change in the law have not been finalized. And because legislators have to introduce bills by certain specified deadlines, they want to introduce something that can later become a vehicle for those specific changes to the law.

Intent bills are effectively treated the same as a spot bill. The difference is that a spot bill doesn’t make any substantive change. Neither does an intent bill, but the intent bill generally specifies what a legislator wants to do with that particular bill. They just haven’t developed the specific statutory language yet. Whether it’s a spot bill or an intent bill, it’s held by the respective Rules Committee until substantive amendments are made and proposed; then that bill is released by the Rules Committee and sent to its first policy committee for a hearing.