McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

An area that is rarely talked about in California’s capitol community concerns the infrequent lobbying of bill referrals. In other words, how does someone get a bill referred to a favorable committee, or perhaps an unfavorable committee, or even to multiple committees?

In most instances, the policy committee to which a bill will be referred is relatively straightforward. A bill amending the Code of Civil Procedure is most likely to be referred to the Judiciary Committee; a bill amending the Streets and Highways Code will often be referred to the Transportation Committee. Nonetheless, sometimes a lobbyist may want a bill to be referred to a friendlier committee, perhaps for a sponsored bill, or a more hostile committee for a bill that he or she opposes.

There really is little formal guidance on lobbying bill referrals. And few lobbyists ever try to influence where a bill is or is not referred. As such, the best advice is like that which is given in other similar lobbying situations. It’s usually most valuable to talk with all the persons who can and do provide input on the referral of bills in the Assembly and the Senate.

In the instances where a lobbyist would prefer a bill go to a specific committee – or two, or three – or would prefer a bill avoid a particular committee for whatever reason, a determination must be made about possible committees that may be appropriate recipients of the bill.

First, you’ve got to review the bill in detail. You should review the Code section or sections that are being added, or amended, or repealed in the bill. This is often the key issue for determining where is the appropriate policy committee for a bill to be referred. Next, review the subject matter because policy committees have jurisdiction over subject matters. And take a look at the committee’s membership and staff to determine how the particular bill might be received by that committee.

After that you can work on the Rules Committee. In each house there’s a staff person who is responsible for reviewing and recommending all bill referrals. This person’s title is the Bill Referral Consultant. Start with this person. Then, after talking with the Bill Referral Consultant who is initially charged with reviewing and making recommendations regarding to which committee or committees a bill should be referred, then you got to go and tackle the members of the Rules Committees, starting first with the Chair and the Vice-Chair. But remember that ultimately, the decision is made by a majority of the full Rules Committee, but they generally follow the Chair’s recommendation, who in turn follows the Bill Referral Consultant’s recommendation.

You can find the full transcript of today’s audio here.