Conducting Business on the Floors (transcript)

Today’s post is on conducting business on the floors.

The California Legislature conducts its business both in policy and fiscal committees as well as on the floors of the State Assembly and the State Senate. Each house determines its own rules and specifies how business will be handled on their respective floors. This process of conducting their activities on the floors is called the Order of Business.

The processes between the two houses are similar in many regards, but there are a few differences as well. So let’s look at the Assembly and the Senate and how each conducts business on the floors.

Pursuant to Assembly Rule 40A, the Assembly’s Order of Business is:

  1. Roll Call
  2. Prayer by the Chaplain
  3. Reading of the Previous Day’s Journal
  4. Presentation of Petitions
  5. Introduction and Reference of Bills
  6. Reports of Committees
  7. Messages from the Governor
  8. Messages from the Senate
  9. Motions and Resolutions
  10. Business on the Daily File
  11. Announcements, and
  12. Adjournment

In addition, under Assembly Rule 63 the following constitutes the Order of Business of pending legislation as contained in the Assembly Daily File:

  1. Special Orders of the Day
  2. Second Reading – Assembly Bills
  3. Second Reading – Senate Bills
  4. Unfinished Business
  5. Third Reading – Assembly bills, and
  6. Third Reading – Senate Bills.

As for the State Senate, under Senate Rule 4, the Order of Business of the Senate is:

  1. Roll Call
  2. Prayer by the Chaplain
  3. Pledge of Allegiance
  4. Privileges of the Floor
  5. Communications and Petitions
  6. Messages from the Governor
  7. Messages from the Assembly
  8. Reports of Committees; Motions, Resolutions, and Notices
  9. Introduction and First Reading of Bills
  10. Consideration of the Daily File in the following order:
    1. Second Reading,
    2. Special Orders,
    3. Unfinished Business, and
    4. Third Reading
  11. Announcement of Committee Meetings
  12. Leaves of Absence, and finally

There are no additional special rules for the Senate found in the Senate Rules. When a bill is taken up that is not on the Daily File, it is done so without reference to file – most often known as its acronym WORF. When a bill is subject to a WORF, what the Senate or Assembly is actually doing is suspending the Orders of the day as set forth in their respective rules providing the order of business.



Floor Items (transcript)

This post is on floor items. We’re going to cover, briefly, the unfinished business file, the inactive file, the use of floor managers, and WORFs. What are they?

The unfinished business file: both the Assembly Daily File as well as the Senate Daily File contain a portion titled “Unfinished Business.” This is the section of the daily file that contains the bills that have returned to their House of origin from the opposite House.

This section of the daily file also contains bills that were vetoed by the governor. Note that vetoed items remain on the daily file for a 60‑day period following the gubernatorial veto. Thereafter, unless voted upon, they are removed from the daily file and can no longer be considered.

What’s the inactive file? Another portion of the daily file to be aware of is for bills that made it to the floor of either the Assembly or the Senate but, for whatever reason, the bill’s author has chosen not to proceed with the measure.

Bills that have failed passage can be moved to the inactive file for further consideration. If an author has moved the bill to the inactive file, he or she can remove it from the Inactive File at a later date, with specified public notice, for further consideration on the respective floor.

What are floor managers? When the bill’s author presents his or her bill on the floor of the bill’s House of origin, that is, when the Assembly bill is presented by an Assembly Member or a Senate bill is presented by the Senator, that’s different when the bill is for consideration in the opposite House.

While a bill’s author is responsible for taking up his or her measure on their own floor, a floor manager is required in the other House. A member of the other House, designated by the bill’s author when the bill is considered by the other House, is called the bill’s floor manager.

What’s a WORF? According to the rules of both Houses, bills that are not listed on the daily file can only be taken up with either unanimous consent by the members of that House or by suspension of the rules.

A bill that is not listed on the daily file but which is taken up nonetheless is referred to as a WORF. The process of taking up a WORF’ed bill is without reference to file, W‑O‑R‑F.

In order to WORF a bill, a majority of the House’s membership, that’s 41 votes in the Assembly and 21 votes in the Senate, is required to take up the bill without reference to file.

Ethics for Legislative Staff (transcript)

Today’s post is on ethics for legislative staff.

Just like California legislators, who are bound by laws and codes of conduct, there are also guides for the conduct of legislative staff as they serve these elected officials and the public. For example, the National Conference of State Legislatures – NCSL – has published a model code of conduct for legislative staff. This comprehensive guide is an invaluable resource for legislative staff across the country.

The purpose of this code of conduct is to provide guidance to legislative staff so that they can better serve the public and legislative branch of state government. These staffers are invaluable to the legislative process and the institution itself. But they are also public servants, just like the elected legislators for whom they work. And just like these legislators, staff too are there to carry out the mission of the Legislature. They have a relationship of trust to the institution and the public generally.

In that regard, staff must conduct themselves appropriately towards legislators, the public, lobbyists, and their fellow staff members. Any code of conduct must detail how legislative staff should conduct themselves so that the public trust is always protected. In addition to any code of conduct, there are relevant state laws that apply to staff such as the California Government Code that provides extensive guidance to public employees.

While many of the prohibitions in the Government Code may seem obvious, they are important for staff to keep in mind as they perform their valuable public service while working in the California State Legislature. In reviewing the NCSL’s model code, it provides a number of helpful guides to legislative staff.


Today’s podcast is on the role of legislative ethics committees.

Ethics in the California Legislature is an important topic. As such, both houses of the Legislature have their own individual ethics committees. Moreover, the Senate has adopted an official Code of Conduct for its members. While the Assembly has not, it too shares similar concerns to ensure that there are codes of conduct in place for all legislators. Both houses have extensive ethics and conflict of interest rules, and both are bound by constitutional and statutory ethics rules.

The Assembly Legislative Ethics Committee consists of six members of the Assembly who are appointed by the Assembly Speaker. This committee has the power to investigate and make any appropriate findings and recommendations concerning violations of the rules by Assembly Members. The Committee’s authority is set forth in the Standing Rules of the Assembly as well as Article III of the Government Code commencing with Section 8940.

Under these Assembly rules, any person may file a verified complaint in writing stating the name of the Assembly Member who is alleged to have violated any standard of conduct. The written complaint must set forth the particulars of the alleged violation with sufficient clarity and detail to enable the Committee to make a determination.

The Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics is appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules and it consists of six Senators. In addition to this committee, the Rules Committee appoints an Ethics Ombudsperson for assisting in the resolution of potential ethical violations as well as assisting the Senate and providing remedies for retaliatory conduct to ensure that an informant or a complainant does not suffer adverse consequences with respect to his or her employment in the California State Senate.

The Senate Ombudsperson is accessible to Senators, officers, and employees of the State Senate, as well as members of the public who wish to provide information or seek guidance about ethical standards or possible violation of standards before filing a formal complaint. All communications are confidential between the informant or complainant and the ombudsperson. The ombudsperson may refer the information to the Rules Committee Chair, the Legislative Ethics Committee Chair, and/or the Secretary of the Senate. In all cases, the identity of the informant or complainant is kept confidential unless that person consents.

The Senate Committee is required to maintain a public hotline telephone number for purposes of contacting the ombudsperson. The complaints received through this hotline are considered informal complaints and the existence of the complaints must be kept confidential. In addition, the Senate Committee must formulate and recommend Standards of Conduct for Senators as well as the officers and employees of the Senate in performing their legislative responsibilities.

Ethics will always play an important role in the Legislative process. Please listen to today’s podcast for more information on the roles, duties and responsibilities, and powers of the legislative ethics committees.

Legislative Committee Rules (transcript)

Today’s post is on legislative committee rules.

Each standing committee of the California State Senate and the Assembly operate under the Joint Rules of the Legislature, as well as the Standing Rules of the Senate and the Standing Rules of the Assembly. Further, each standing committee may adopt rules governing their committees. These committee rules set forth the procedures and guidelines governing that legislative committee.

As a general rule, many of the committee rules contain some of the provisions that are outlined in today’s podcast, including provisions on committee worksheets, motions, and letters of support and opposition among many others. I hope you find today’s podcast helpful.




Recapping Governor Brown’s Bill Actions in 2018 (transcript)

Today’s post is a summary of the bill actions by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, his last year in office.

While the 2018 legislative session concludes sine die on November 30th, for all practical purposes the session ended on September 30, which represented the last day by the constitution for Governor Brown to act on all the bills sent to his desk in those final weeks of the legislative session.

He actually acted on bills every month of the year – from January with just one bill through September where he acted on 941 bills. So there were well over 1,000 bills that reached his desk. The exact number? 1,217 of those bills.

Now, this year, the 2018 session that began in early January and concluded by the constitution on August 31 dealt with 2,225 bills were introduced between the two houses of the Legislature. The Senate introduced 694 bills in 2018. The Assembly introduced 1,531 bills.

Of those 1,217 that made it down, 55% of the bills introduced made it to the Governor’s desk and 45% of the bills introduced – again that 2,225 number – got signed into law while a mere 9% of the bills that were introduced got vetoed. Of course, of the 1,217 bills a certain number were signed and vetoed.

The Governor this year vetoed 201 bills, which represents 16.5% – the highest he’s ever done. Let’s look a little closer at those bills the Governor signed and vetoed this year. Again, the magical number was 1,217.

I go into a greater detailed breakdown of the bills signed and vetoed by Governor Brown in today’s podcast.




Standing Committees and Their Jurisdictions (transcript)

This post is on legislative committees and their jurisdictions.

Both houses of the California legislature provide committees of legislators to do their work based upon subject matter jurisdiction.

With fewer legislators, the Senate naturally has a fewer number of committees than the State Assembly. Nonetheless, both consider legislation from their house of origin as well as the other house.

This is a brief overview of the Senate and Assembly standing committees and their basic jurisdictions. In the Senate, there are 21 standing committees that are provided pursuant to Rule 12 of the Standing Rules of the Senate. Let’s turn to the Assembly and its committees. There are 32 standing committees in the Assembly, pursuant to Rule 11 of the Standing Rules of the Assembly.

I go into greater detail about the committees and their jurisdictions in today’s audio. Thanks for listening.



Joint Committees (transcript)

Today’s post is on the work of the Legislature’s joint committees.

The California State Legislature has a number of joint committees that are comprised of members of the Senate and Assembly, and are intended to cover issues of mutual interest between the two houses.

The three main joint committees deal with legislative rules, the state budget, and state audits. Capitol observers should be aware of the work of all three of these joint committees.

The first is the Joint Rules Committee, which actually rarely meets. It consists of members of the Assembly Committee on Rules, the Assembly Majority and Minority Leaders, the Speaker of the Assembly, four members of the Senate Committee on Rules, and other Senators that are appointed by the Senate Rules Committee.

The Joint Rules Committee is required to have an equal number of Assembly Members and Senators. Among its responsibilities are: the relations between the two houses and making recommendations to improve that relationship, changes in the law to cure defects affecting the Legislature, adjustments in legislative procedures governing the processing of proposed legislation, and coordination of the work of the Assembly and the Senate and their committees by eliminating duplication of efforts. In addition, the Joint Rules Committee approves the involvement of the Legislative Counsel in litigation affecting the Legislature.

The next is JLBC – the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. It was established in state statute over 60 years ago, and it employs the Legislative Analyst – whose job it is to provide nonpartisan budget advice to the Legislature. The JLBC has equal representation from both Houses – 8 Assembly Members who are appointed by the Speaker and 8 Senators who are appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules.

The essential function of the JLBC is to make recommendations to both houses concerning the state budget, the revenues and the expenditures of the state, as well as concerning the organization and functions of the state in its departments, its subdivisions, and its agencies. Under the Joint Rules of the Assembly and the Senate, the JLBC is a continuing body.

And the third is JLAC – Joint Legislative Audit Committee. The purpose of JLAC is to have Legislators determine which state or local activities they want reviewed by the state’s Auditor General. JLAC has existed for more than 50 years in state law. Here too there’s an equal number of legislators who sit on JLAC – 7 members of the Assembly who are appointed by the Speaker and 7 members of the Senate who are appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules Committee.

During the session, they meet roughly every other month to review pending audit requests and review and vote on any new audit requests. The results of these audits are made public on the State Auditor’s website, and there’s a subscription service for these reports. The audit reports are also transmitted to the policy committees of both houses of the Legislature.

At the hearings of JLAC legislators present their audit requests and the auditor’s staff provide background and an estimate of the time and cost of the proposed audit. Thereafter public testimony is allowed and JLAC votes whether to request the audit or deny the audit request.




Today’s post is on types of legislative committees.

In both the California State Assembly as well as the California State Senate, there are several types of committees that operate to conduct the business of the two houses of the California Legislature.

Committee information is available online for the Assembly at, and for Senate at These websites include the committee members, the staff, the address, the phone number, when and where they meet, their policy committee jurisdictions, etc.

In terms of the standing committees, there are 32 in the Assembly and 21 in the Senate. These committees are created pursuant to the Assembly Rules for Assembly committees – obviously – and the Senate Rules for the Senate committees.

The standing committees consider legislation, the state budget, internal legislative matters, and all of these are determined by the jurisdictions that’s set forth in those rules. Again, the two rules committees, the Assembly Rules Committee and the Senate Rules Committee, determines the jurisdictions and the composition of those committees.

The standing committees have to meet specific standards for providing notice, bill analyses, the quorums, the method of voting, etc. Note that both the Assembly and the Senate have select committees, which are technically subcommittees of each house’s respective general research committee.

Now, pursuant to two joint rules, that’s 36.5 and 36.7, there are a number of joint committees of the Legislature. Note that joint committees have membership from both houses and consider issues of joint concern. A number of these committees were actually established pursuant to state statute or resolution that were adopted by the two houses.




Today’s post is on the effective dates of statutes.

In the California Legislature legislation that contains an urgency clause take effect immediately upon the Governor signing the bill and it being chaptered by the Secretary of State – which occurs the same day.

With the exception of measures which take immediately, tax levies and bills calling an election, bills enacted in the first year of the legislative session before the Legislature adjourns all go into effect on January 1 of the following year. This same rule applies to the second year of the legislative session as well.

A statute enacted in a special session goes into effect on the 91st day after that special session has adjourned.

A statute – now there are some exceptions – for those that establish boundaries of the legislative, congressional, or election district enacted by a bill passed by the Legislature before adjourning for joint recess and in the possession after that date go into effect on January 1 unless a copy of a referendum petition effecting the statute is submitted to the Attorney General – in accordance with Section 10(d) of Article II of the state constitution – and then the statute goes into effect the 91st day after the enactment unless the Secretary of State receives that petition for the referendum.

Note that in Section 9(c), statutes calling elections, statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for the usual and current expenses of the state, and urgency statutes go into effect immediately upon enactment.

The exceptions to this general rule are set forth in Section 9600b of the Government Code, which again reiterates that constitutional provision that statutes calling elections, those statutes calling for tax levies or appropriations for expenses of the state, and urgency statutes go into effect immediately.