McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

One of the controversial occurrences that occurs during the legislative sessions of the California Legislature are so-called gut and amend bills. According to the Legislative Counsel, these measures are defined as “when amendments to a bill remove the current contents in their entirety and replace them with different provisions.”

These types of amendments raise the legislative issue of germaneness, which generally refers to whether a proposed amendment is relevant to the subject matter that’s currently contained in that particular measure. While the Legislative Counsel in California may opine on the issue of germaneness, the determination of germaneness is generally decided by the presiding officer of the Assembly or Senate.

In addition, we have to consider the appropriateness of gut and amend bills in the context of Prop. 54 that was adopted by the voters and requires a bill to be in print for 72 hours before the final version of the bill can be voted upon by members of the Legislature. Now, because that ballot measure added the word “any” before the types of amendments, the 72-hour rule means it applies to both substantive and technical amendments.

Prop. 54 has to be taken into account at the end of the legislative session when dealing with gut and amend bills. Each house of the Legislature has rules related to determining whether these amendments are, in fact, germane to the current contents of the bill.

In the Assembly there is Assembly Rule 92. It basically says that an amendment to any bill, other than a bill stating legislative intent to make necessary statutory changes to implement the budget bill, is not in order when the amendment relates to a different subject than, or is intended to accomplish a different purpose than, or requires a title that’s essentially different than the original bill.

The Senate has Senate Rule 23(e) which draws a distinction to amendments to rewrite a bill. Here, the first inquiry is whether the amendment is germane to the current version of the bill, but adds a new subject to the bill that’s different from but relates to the current contents of the bill. Subdivision (f) of Senate Rule 23 acknowledges these new bills when an amendment creates a new bill if the amendment changes the subject of the bill to a new or entirely different subject.

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