McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

California’s Law Revision Commission was established almost 70 years ago as an independent state agency, and its purpose is to assist the Legislature and the Governor in reviewing and making suggested reforms to state statutes. Beginning this year, there is also a Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code.

The Commission is comprised of seven members who are appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate. Additionally, one State Senator and one Assemblymember are appointed to the Commission. The Legislative Counsel also serves as an ex-officio member. The Commission reviews California statutes as well as California appellate court decisions in order to discover any defects, or anachronisms, or other issues with California law, and to recommend legislation to make changes.

The Committee on the revision of the Penal Code consists of five members, all of whom are appointed by the Governor, as well as one State Senator and one Assemblymember. The members of the Committee are separate from members of the Commission.

The California Law Revision Commission is charged by statute to do four things.

  1. Examine the common law and statutes of the state and judicial decisions for the purpose of discovering defects and anachronisms in the law and recommending needed reforms.
  2. Receive and consider proposed changes in the law recommended by the American Law Institute, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, any bar association, and any other learned bodies.
  3. Receive and consider suggestions from judges, justices, public officials, lawyers, and the public generally regarding any defects and anachronisms in the law.
  4. Recommend from time to time such changes in the law as it deems necessary to modify or eliminate antiquated and inequitable rules of law, and to bring the law of the state into harmony with modern conditions.

The Commission must also recommend the repeal of any statute that’s been held to be unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court or the California Supreme Court.

Recommendations from California’s Law Revision Commission have resulted in changes to more than 22,500 sections of California’s Codes. Basically,  90% of the Commission’s recommendations have been enacted into law.

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

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

The California Transportation Commission, also known by its acronym, the CTC, was established in state government by legislation enacted in 1977.

The CTC began operations the following year. Its purpose is to ensure the implementation of a single transportation policy here in the State of California. When it began operations in 1978, it actually assumed the duties of four prior state entities. The CTC is charged with programming and allocating funds for the construction of highway, passenger rail, transit, and active transportation improvements throughout the State of California. It is an independent public agency that’s dedicated to ensuring a safe, financially sustainable, world-class multimodal transportation system that reduces congestion, improves the environment, and facilitates economic development throughout the efficient movement of people and goods.

The CTC is comprised of eleven members, as well as two ex-officio members. Nine of the voting members are appointed by the Governor, one is appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, and the last voting member is appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules.

The California Transportation Commission advises the Secretary of the California Transportation Agency, as well as the Legislature, regarding state policies and plans on California’s transportation programs. The CTC also works on state and federal legislation in its effort to secure financial stability for the state’s transportation needs.

According to the CTC, it is responsible for a number of activities, including but not limited to:

  • Adopting the biennial estimate of state and federal dollars available for California’s STIP – State Transportation Improvement Program – and SHOP – State Highway Operations and Protection – program, as well as the STIP and SHOP themselves.
  • Adopting guidelines, programming projects, and allocating funds and reporting on programs funded by 2017’s SB 1.
  • Establishing reporting requirements related to the funding received by city and county governments from the road maintenance and rehabilitation account.

You can read the full transcript of today’s podcast here.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

The California Energy Commission, or CEC as it is often referred to as, was established in 1974 by the Warren-Alquist Act in response to the nation’s energy crisis in the early 1970’s. The CEC is charged with leading the state to a 100% clean energy future. It is the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency.

You can find provisions on the CEC in the Public Resources Code, Division 15, Chapter 1. Per Section 25006 of the Public Resources Code, “It’s the policy of the state and the intent of the Legislature to establish and consolidate the state’s responsibility for energy resources, for encouraging, developing, and coordinating research and development into energy supply and demand problems, and for regulating electrical generating and related transmission facilities.”

There are multiple divisions that run the day-to-day operations of the California Energy Commission. They include:

  • the Efficiency Division, which develops regulations, policies, and programs to help the state meet its clean energy goals;
  • the Energy Assessment Division, which forecasts and assesses energy demands and supplies;
  • the Fuels and Transportation Division, which administers the clean transportation program;
  • the Office of Compliance Assistance and Enforcement, which leads the CEC’s efforts to ensure conservation requirements are met;
  • the Public Advisor’s Office, which provides information on how to participate in the business meetings, workshops, and formal proceeding of the CEC;
  • the Renewable Energy Division, which develops and administers the state’s renewable energy programs; and
  • the Siting, Transmission, and Environmental Division, which maintains a staff of experts in more than twenty different engineering and environmental disciplines.

There are extensive provisions in the Public Resources Code related to the CEC. It also oversees loan and grant programs related to energy efficiency as well as more than two dozen specific funding programs.

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

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

The California Coastal Commission was created by voters in 1972 and made permanent by the Legislature when the California Coastal Act was enacted in 1976. The Coastal Commission is charged with protecting and enhancing California’s coast and ocean for all generations.

It is an independent, quasi-judicial state agency. It is quasi-judicial because it has enforcement capabilities as well as appellate authority over developments that have been approved by local governments in specified geographic areas.

The California Coastal Commission has twelve voting members appointed equally by the Governor, the Senate Committee on Rules, and the Speaker of the Assembly. Additionally, six of the voting commissioners are locally elected officials, and the other six are appointed from the public at large. The Commission also has three ex-officio members who represent the state’s Natural Resources Agency, Transportation Agency, and State Lands Commission.

The Commission works closely with coastal cities and counties to plan and regulate the use of both land and water in the coastal area. The coastal zone was developed by the Legislature and includes land as well as a three-mile band of the ocean. That said, the San Francisco Bay area is not regulated by the California Coastal Commission. Rather, development there is regulated by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, BCDC.

Pursuant to federal law, the Coastal Commission actually has regulatory control over all federal activities as well as federally licensed, permitted, or assisted activities. These include the outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing, exploration, and development, as well as the designation of dredged material disposal sites in the ocean, military projects at coastal locations, and several other specified activities under federal law.

The public is able to participate in Coastal Commission hearings as well as the ability to talk with Commissioners regarding proposed development activities and securing permits for those activities.

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

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

Similar to how the LAO serves the California Legislature, the Department of Finance – DOF or Finance for short – serves as the chief fiscal policy advisor to the Governor. Its closest federal counterpart is the Office of Management and Budget, OMB, which serves as the President’s chief fiscal policy advisor.

The DOF engages in a number of activities related to the state budget. They prepare the proposed, revised, and enacted versions of the state budget, trailer bill language, and other budget details such as BCP’s (budget change proposals), finance letters, and pro rata statewide cost allocation plans. DOF also has a treasure trove of historical budget information. This includes old e-budgets, publications, summary schedules, historical charts, and other budget-related information.

DOF is also responsible for accounting issues for the state. Their responsibilities include devising, supervising, and maintaining a modern, uniform state accounting system. Finance also sets statewide fiscal and accounting procedures and they provide fiscal and accounting training, advice, and consulting services to different state agencies and their personnel.

Finance also does a fair amount of forecasting. DOF prepares four major forecasting reports each year on demographics, economics, general fund and special tax revenue estimates, and on major regulations where the costs or benefits are estimated to exceed $50 million. DOF also publishes a number of reports on different matters where there is a fiscal impact to the state of California.

Like the LAO, Finance has proven to be an invaluable player in the annual state budget bill negotiations working on behalf of the Governor and the administration to ensure that the Governor and his or her staff has all the data and information that they need to work collaboratively with the Legislature in order craft what is undoubtedly the most important bill enacted each and every year, the state budget bill.

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

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, LAO, is similar to the federal Congressional Budget Office. It is a nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor and has performed this duty admirably for 75 years.

The LAO is known for its fiscal and programmatic expertise and for providing very important and nonpartisan analyses of the California state budget to the Legislature. The office often acts as the eyes and the ears of the Legislature to ensure that the executive branch is implementing legislative policy directives in a cost‑efficient and very effective manner.

It is overseen by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, JLBC, which is comprised of sixteen legislators. The Committee is bipartisan and has an equal number of Assemblymembers and Senators. The LAO itself has a staff of more than 40 analysts and other support staff to help it do its job.

The key responsibility for the LAO is to analyze the Governor’s annual budget proposal, released by January 10, pursuant to the state constitution. The LAO also does a series of analyses on some of the key fiscal issues and proposals in the Governor’s budget throughout the budget process.

LAO staff will actually sit in on budget subcommittee hearings throughout the budget process and they provide public testimony on the LAO’s recommendations.

The office used to analyze pending legislation, however it was forced to cut back to only analyzing the budget after the passage of Prop 140 in 1990 and the budget cutbacks that resulted from it.

In addition to its work on the state budget, the LAO estimates the fiscal impact on state and local governments of all proposed ballot initiatives prior to the initiatives being in circulation. The office also helps prepare the analyses of all the measures that actually qualify for the state ballot as well.

You can find the full transcript of the audio in this post here.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

The judicial branch of California government engages in policymaking through the Judicial Council.

The Judicial Council is chaired by the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. It pursues a number of different goals, including: providing access, fairness, and diversity in our court system; ensuring independence and accountability of the judiciary; modernizing the management and administration of the state’s court system; ensuring quality of justice and service to the public; and providing adequate, stable, and predictable funding to ensure a fully functioning branch of state government.

While the Council employs a staff to assist it, it also relies heavily on a number of advisory bodies and task forces. It has six internal committees, which include: the Executive and Planning Committee, the Judicial Branch Budget Committee, the Judicial Council Technology Committee, the Legislation Committee, the Litigation Management Committee, and the Rules Committee. There are also more than two dozen task forces that assist the Judicial Council as well.

It should be noted that our Judicial Council has been at the forefront of many of the historical reforms in terms of the judicial administration of our state’s court system, such as trial court unification – where we unified our municipal and superior courts. The Council also maintains annual reports on workload information related to the courts, their annual outlook reports, different court statistics, and legislative reports in terms of legislation/new laws that have affected the court system.

With the historical materials, the Judicial Council provides a valuable wealth of information about the state’s court system, as well as its operation and administration of justice here in the state of California.

You can read the full transcript of today’s podcast here.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

The final weeks of the legislative session are the proverbial sprint to the finish line. Policy committees have finished the bulk of their work, but many bills get significant amendments that require the policy committees to hear additional bills as the session winds down. The main focus then becomes the fiscal committees and their votes on measures that are pending on the respective suspense files in the appropriations committees of the Senate and Assembly.

Then, the final two weeks of the legislative session are a whirlwind. Several hundred bills are considered on the floor of the second house with most bills having to return for a final vote on the floor of their house of origin. Once the session adjourns, the work is not done. Instead, the focus turns to the Governor’s office and his or her consideration of the hundreds of bills that reach his or her desk. Now, what are some of the constitutional and statutory requirements?

First, the bill cannot be passed or become a statute unless that bill and any amendments have been in print and published on the internet for at least 72 hours before the final vote unless the Governor has submitted some sort of a statement that the bill is needed to address a state of emergency.

The bill becomes a statute if it’s signed by the Governor or if the Governor returns it without any objections. The governor may also veto a measure. That requires that a bill be returned to the house of origin with any objections. The Legislature can vote again to pass the bill. If a two‑thirds majority vote does so, then the bill becomes a statute.

At the close of each regular session, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, and the two minority party leaders must report on the progress that was made in meeting the goals and objectives outlined at the beginning of the legislative session.

Finally, at each session, the Governor must report to the Legislature any reprieves, pardons, or commutations granted including the reasons for doing so. That’s basically what transpires during the final weeks of the legislative session and the consideration, generally, of hundreds of bills.

You can read the full transcript of today’s podcast here.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

The California State Assembly is poised to adopt a new rule to allow proxy voting. On July 27th, the first day back from its extended recess, Assembly Majority Floor Leader Ian Calderon introduced House Resolution 100 which would adopt a rule to allow proxy voting during the COVID‑19 state of emergency.

HR-100 notes that the pandemic has affected members of the Legislature and their ability to participate in official legislative proceedings to the point that the pandemic threatens to undermine the constitutional duty and authority of each house to convene and to compel the attendance of members during COVID-19.

The resolution does not amend existing Assembly Rules, but rather, adopts a standalone resolution. If adopted by a majority the Assembly, the Speaker of the Assembly would be authorized to permit proxy voting by designated members for floor session, but not during committee hearings.

Eligible members must request authorization from the Speaker. In order to be eligible, the Assemblymember must be at a higher risk to contract the COVID-19 virus.

The proxy authorization will be terminated when the 2020 legislative ends sine die on November 30, when the state of emergency ends, or when the Speaker withdraws the authorization – whichever comes first.

To request authorization to vote by proxy, the Assemblymember must submit a letter requesting it prior to the floor session at which the voting would occur. If approved by the Speaker, the authorization is provided to the Chief Clerk of the Assembly and printed in the Assembly Daily Journal. Once floor session begins, but before proceeding with the business contained in the Daily File, the presiding officer must announce the names of the members who are voting by proxy on that particular day.

The Assemblymember voting by proxy must submit written instructions prior to the floor session. Their instructions must identify each legislative action on which the absent member will be voting by proxy. Proxy votes will be identified for each roll call vote in the Assembly Daily Journal for that day. An Assemblymember voting by proxy cannot add on or change his or her vote after the proxy vote has been cast.

Only four legislative leaders are authorized to actually cast the proxy votes of any absent members. They are the Speaker, the Assembly Majority Leader, the Minority Leader, and the Minority Floor Manager.

McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli outside the California State Capitol

Since the California State Senate has authorized the use of remote voting, let’s take a look at how the process in the Senate works. Note, at this time, that the Assembly has not authorized remote voting yet.

First, remote voting is limited to only policy and fiscal committees. It is not currently authorized for floor votes. If a Senator wants to be able to vote remotely, they must obtain approval for that accommodation request, and the request must be COVID-19 related. If approved, the Senator has to participate in the Committee hearing from their district office.

In addition, for a Senator to be able to participate remotely in a committee hearing, the Committee Chair and a majority of the members of the committee must be physically present in the Capitol for the committee hearing.

Per the resolution that enacted these new provisions, Senate Resolution 86, the remote voting rules only apply during emergencies, which include – a state of emergency declared by the Governor, a local emergency that was proclaimed pursuant to the Government Code, or an imminent threat of such a local or state emergency.

Senators participating remotely may do so by use of a telephone, teleconference, or other electronic means. The public can also participate remotely in committee hearings. They can do so by any means that the Senate committee makes available. In addition to in-person testimony, Senate committees have also allowed remote video testimony and telephone testimony.

Although remote voting on the floor of the Senate is not currently authorized, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins has noted that it remains an option for the Senate depending on conditions related to the COVID-19 state of emergency develop.

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