McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

When a bill is passed by the California Legislature and sent to the Governor, there are three actions that are allowed.

One is the Governor can sign the bill into law, making it a statute. The second is the Governor can veto the bill or reject it. The third option is that the Governor can allow the bill to become law without his or her signature, generally called a pocket signature. Note of course that this is different than the pocket veto found at the federal level.


Section 10(a) of Article IV provides in part that each bill passed by the Legislature shall be presented to the Governor. It becomes a statute if it is signed by the Governor. Depending on when the Governor is presented with the legislation, the Governor has either 12 or 30 days to sign the bill into law.

In general, the Governor has 12 days to sign a bill after it has been presented to him or her. The bill is not presented to the Governor immediately after it passes the Assembly or Senate. First, the legislation goes through the engrossing and enrolling process and then is presented to the Governor. That is when the 12-day clock starts ticking.

However, the Governor has 30 days to sign a bill if:

  • In the first year of the two-year session, the Governor receives the bill with less than 12 days until the Legislature adjourns for a joint recess, or
  • On or after August 20 during the second year of the two-year session.

Section 10(a) of Article IV provides in part that the Governor may veto a bill by returning it with any objections to the house of origin which shall enter the objections in the Journal and proceed to reconsider it. The Constitution provides the Legislature has 60 calendar days, with days in joint recess excluded, to act upon the vetoed bill. If two-thirds of the members of both houses concur, the veto is overridden. However, veto overrides are quite rare. The Legislature has not overridden a Governor’s veto since 1979. 

The Governor also has line-item veto authority. Per Section 10(e) of Article IV, the Governor may reduce or eliminate one or more items of appropriation while approving other portions of a bill. Like a veto, the Legislature can override a line-item veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses.

Pocket Signature

Section 10(b)(1) of Article IV provides that any bill other than a bill that would establish or change boundaries of any legislative, congressional, or other election district that is passed by the Legislature and is not signed by the Governor in the allotted 12 or 30-day timeframe, depending on when the Governor received the bill, becomes law without the Governor’s signature. This pocket signature rule is the opposite of the federal pocket veto rule, where if the US President fails to act on a bill within the allotted time, the bill is vetoed.

You can find the full transcript of today’s podcast here