McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

What is California’s reenactment rule? The state’s constitution, in Article IV, Section 9, states, “ A section of a statute may not be amended unless the section is reenacted as amended.” But what exactly does that mean?

The courts have determined that the purpose of the reenactment rule is to avoid enacting statutes in terms so blind that legislators themselves are deceived in regard to their effect. The rule applies to bills that amend a former act or an existing statute. It does not apply to bills that add new code sections, enact entirely independent acts, or that might somehow impliedly impact other code sections. In other words, if a bill adds a new code section, the Legislature does not need to reenact other code sections that may be affected by that change.

There are a number of court cases that have looked at how California’s constitutional reenactment rule should be applied. At least one state court has opined that non-substantive amendments cannot serve to reenact substantive provisions of an otherwise invalid statute.

In 2015’s Gillette Company v. the Franchise Tax Board, the California Supreme Court addressed a specific section of California’s Revenue and Tax Code, Section 25128. The Court addressed the question of whether or not that code section violated the reenactment rule. In the decision, the Court stated that the purpose of the reenactment rule is to ensure that legislators are made aware of the proposed changes they are making when they adopt legislation and that the public has been apprised of the proposed changes in the law.

The Court found that, even without enacting or reenacting the specific section to address a  change made to another Code Section, the Court felt the Legislature and the public were reasonably notified of the changes in the law. The California Supreme Court reached that decision because a provision in Section 25128 expressly referenced a compact contained in Section 38006, and that the provision in 25128 applied notwithstanding Section 38006.

Essentially, what California’s reenactment rule does is ensure that while reviewing the contents of a bill that amends an existing code section, that the reader can readily identify what changes are being proposed because the proposed amendments are set forth in the bill as proposed changes within the existing, current statute.

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