McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

In the California Legislature, as with many other legislative bodies across the country, there’s often an initial question regarding whether amendments to an existing bill are germane to the subject matter of the existing bill.

In California, the office of the Legislative Counsel, who serve as the lawyers for the Legislature, may opine on germaneness. However, the actual determination of germaneness is decided by the presiding officer in either the State Assembly or the State Senate and that determination is subject to an appeal by the membership. This means that ultimately a majority of the Assembly or a majority of the Senate may rule on germaneness. Each house of the Legislature has its own rules to determine whether amendments are germane and ultimately, it is then up to a majority vote in each house of the Legislature to rule on germaneness.

In the Assembly, pursuant to Assembly Rule 47d, the Budget committee may introduce a bill that is germane to any subject within the jurisdiction of the committee in the same manner as any Assemblymember, which is pretty broad. Any other committee may introduce a total of five bills in each year of the biennial session that is germane to the committee’s subject matter. Assembly Rule 92 spells out in further detail when a specific amendment to a bill is or is not germane to the bill.

In the Senate, Senate Rule 23a functions similarly to Assembly Rule 47d. Senate Rule 23b goes on to state that a committee may amend into a bill related provisions that are germane to the subject and embraced within the title, with the consent of the author, and that it may then constitute a committee bill.

Senate Rule 38.5 requires specifically that every amendment proposed is to be germane and that in order to be germane, an amendment must relate to the same subject as the original bill, resolution, or other question under consideration. The rule also sets deadlines for action should the Senate President Pro Tem – or the Vice Chair of the Senate Rules Committee in the case of the Pro Tem not being present – decides that a point of order on the issue of whether an amendment is germane. If they decide the point of order is well taken, the question of germaneness is referred to the Rule Committee for consideration. The Rules Committee must then make its determination by the following legislative day unless the point of order and referral is made on the last legislative day preceding a recess. In that case the Rule Committee must make its determination because adjourning.

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