Today we’ll take a look at some key differences in four common legislative floor operations at the end of the legislative session versus earlier in the session.
Under Assembly Rule 77, a vote to concur in any Senate amendments to an Assembly Bill must meet the same vote threshold required for the bill itself to pass. This is generally a simple majority vote unless otherwise specified. However, the concurrence vote cannot be taken until the bill has been on the unfinished business file for one calendar day; this is known as the one-day waiting period. This does not apply to the last two days of the legislative session. Assembly Rule 77 can and does get suspended, as recently as the end of the 2020 legislative session.
The California Senate has no one-day waiting period. Senate Rule 29 still requires that the amended measure being returned to Senate from the Assembly with amendments appear in the unfinished business file of the Senate Daily File, and that Senators be provided with analysis of the amended Senate Bill, but there is no requirement in the Senate’s rules for one day to pass.
The two houses of the California Legislature operate slightly differently in how they amend the other house’s bills on the floor. In the Assembly, they are required to submit amendments the night before the Friday deadline, i.e. Thursday evening at 5:00 PM, although at the end of the session, the desk is known to stay open later to process the crush of amendments coming in. On Friday, the Floor Manager, that is the Assembly Member who is managing or presenting the Senate Bill on the Assembly floor, has to stand up on the floor and present the proposed amendments and seek approval for those amendments. Approval can either be made with the unanimous consent of the members or by a roll call vote. Any member can request a roll call vote. And in that case, the bill is amended by a majority of those present and voting.
In the Senate, amendments are not presented on the floor. Instead, amended bills are placed on the second reading file and amendments are processed by the Senate Desk. This effectively meant that, during the end of the 2021 session, amendments to ABs were made through 5 pm on the Friday before the last week of session.
Batching and the Consent Calendar
In recent years, the term “batching” has come up increasingly on the Assembly floor. It’s a process that once unanimous consent is received on the floor, permits a single vote for multiple bills or amendments to be adopted. It’s used, occasionally, when both the Democratic and Republican caucuses both have a support recommendation and no Republican legislators have abstained or voted no on the bill in committee or on the floor. It is most similar to the Senate’s special consent calendar.
Going Past Midnight
This question always arises at the end of session, as the clock ticks closer and closer to midnight, can legislative business be conducted after midnight on the last day of session?
In an even-numbered year, an election year, this question is clearly answered by California’s Constitution. Article IV, Section 10, Subdivision C states the Legislature must conduct work by midnight, August 31. There are three types of bills that are exceptions to this mandate.
However, in odd-numbered years, the date of adjournment is set by the Joint Rules of the Assembly and Senate. In past years, in following with its custom and practice, the Senate will work past the midnight deadline without suspending the Joint Rule. The Assembly, however, generally passes a resolution suspending the Joint Rule. Do they need to do that? I don’t think so. As a general principle of California’s separation of power doctrine, the judicial branch won’t consider a legal challenge to a statute that is alleged to have violated internal rule of procedure of either of the houses of the Legislature
You can find the transcript of the audio in today’s post here.