McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

So, what essentially are appropriations measures? Unfortunately, while California law does not define the term, it is used frequently in the law. California’s Legislative Counsel defines an appropriation as an amount of money made available for expenditure by a specific entity for a specific purpose from the General Fund or some other designated state fund or account.

California’s Constitution mentions appropriations in multiple locations. In Article IV Sections 8 and 10 there is mention of appropriations for the usual and current expenses of the state. Article IV Section 12 mentions appropriations for the salaries and expenses of the Legislature. Nonetheless, the state constitution also does not define the term “appropriation.”

Despite its use in numerous other Articles of the California Constitution and throughout many of California’s Codes, there is no formalized definition. The most common working definition of an appropriation bill, sometimes called a spending bill, is essentially any measure that authorizes or makes an expenditure of government funds.

At the state level, appropriations measures require adoption by the Legislature and approval by the Governor. In California, the main appropriations measure is the annual state budget bill. Article IV, Section 12d of the California Constitution provides that the budget bill is the only measure that may contain more than one item of appropriation. In addition, appropriations from the General Fund of the state, except for appropriations for the public schools and appropriations in the budget and trailer bills that make appropriations related to the budget bill, must be passed by a 2/3 majority vote of both houses of the Legislature.

These are the essential rules regarding appropriations measures, again, without any constitutional or statutory definition of what precisely constitutes an appropriations measure.

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