McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

As capitol observers watch the floor sessions, and sometimes even committee hearings, of the California State Assembly and State Senate they come across some commonly used phrases. Let’s take a look at what those phrases mean.

Parliamentary Inquiry

This is used by a member of the Senate or the Assembly during a legislative proceeding – a committee hearing or floor session – to raise a question about parliamentary procedure. The member is recognized by either the Committee Chair or the house’s Presiding Officer, and then that person answers the member’s parliamentary inquiry.

Point of Order

This phrase is based on parliamentary procedure and is used by a Senator or an Assemblymember to bring the chamber’s Presiding Officer’s or the Committee Chair’s attention to an alleged violation of the house’s or the committee’s rules. After the member states their point of order, the Presiding Officer or the Committee Chair issues a ruling on the validity of the stated point of order.

Privileges of the Floor

This phrase describes when a member of the Legislature has been granted permission by the respective house’s Presiding Officer for a guest – for example, a family member or constituent – to view the legislative proceedings from the floor of the Assembly or Senate, rather than from the gallery.

Condition of the File

This is used by a member to make a brief statement at the close of a legislative floor session. Essentially, the member is speaking to their colleagues about why it is no appropriate for that house to adjourn at that time. The Senate does not have a formal, established time limit for these comments, but Senators are generally limited to about five minutes. In the other house, Assembly Rule 84 states “a member may state a fact relating to the condition of the business of the Assembly, but is limited to two minutes, and no debate is allowed.”

Adjourn in Memory

This phrase describes when a member has been granted permission to adjourn the house in memory of an individual. The request must be made in writing, is read by the house’s Presiding Officer, and then the member’s statement occurs prior to adjournment of the day’s session.

The Desk is Clear

This phrase is used by the Presiding Officer of the Assembly or the Senate to recognize a motion to adjourn. Essentially, it means that there is no further official business to come before that particular house that particular day.

You can also read the transcript of today’s audio here.