McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

When the California Legislature adjourned its 2020 session in the early morning hours of September 1st, many observers mistakenly called it adjournment sine die. However, it is worth noting that there is a distinction between adjournment and adjournment sine die.

The Legislative Counsel’s Glossary of Terms defines adjournment as “terminating a meeting or the occurrence at the close of a legislative day upon the completion of the house’s business.” Adjournment is accomplished by a successful motion to end the committee hearing or the floor session. That motion is not debatable, and it may not be amended. A motion to adjourn is generally in order except when another member is speaking on the floor, when voting is taking place, or during a call.

Pursuant to Assembly Rule 84, the details of the adjournment motion are entered in the Assembly Daily Journal. Per Assembly Rule 85, a motion to recess to a time certain is treated the same as a motion to adjourn, however, a motion to recess is debatable and it can be amended regarding its time and duration. In both houses, a motion to adjourn requires a simple majority vote.

Adjournment sine die comes from Latin, and essentially means to adjourn without days. The phrase basically means there are no days left in the legislative session after the Legislature adjourns. Put another way, the term is used to describe the final termination of the two-year legislative session.

Adjournment sine die is also found in Article IV, Section 3(a) of California’s Constitution, where it says, “each session of the Legislature shall adjourn sine die by operation of the Constitution at midnight on November 30 of the following even-numbered year.” Note that both regular and special sessions of the Legislature adjourn sine die at midnight on November 30 of each even-numbered year.

Put another way, when the California Legislature terminated the 2020 session back in the wee hours of the morning of September 1, the Assembly and the Senate adjourned until they reconvene on Monday, December 7th, at twelve noon, per the state Constitution. The 2019-2020 legislative session adjourns sine die on November 30, 2020.

You can also find the transcript of today’s podcast here.