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.

Three Readings (transcript)

Today’s post is about the three readings of a bill that are required by the California Constitution.

The California Constitution requires a bill to be read three times before it can be debated and voted upon by either house. A reading of a bill in the state Assembly or the state Senate is defined as being, “The presentation of the bill before the entire house by reading the bill’s number, the author, and the title.”

Each time the bill is read, those three provisions are read aloud on the floor by the reading clerk in either the Senate or the Assembly. There’s a misconception that the three constitutionally required readings of a bill are all the same. In fact, each is for a different specified purpose.

The first reading of a bill occurs upon introduction of the bill. The second reading occurs after a bill has been reported to the floor from committee, with or without amendments. The third reading occurs when the measure is about to be taken up on the floor of either house for final debate and passage.

Note that the three readings requirement under the Constitution can be suspended by a two‑thirds vote in either house. Let’s cover the three readings.

The first reading of a bill takes place when it is actually introduced in either house. The bill is placed across the desk of the Assembly or Senate, which is the official act of introducing a bill in the Legislature.

The second reading of the bill takes place after the bill has been reported out of committee, either the policy or the fiscal committee, to the floor of either the Assembly or the Senate.

The third reading of the bill takes place when the bill is about to be taken up for consideration ‑‑ that is, its presentation debate and vote on either the Assembly floor or the Senate floor.

Those are the three readings of a bill. Hope you enjoyed today’s post.

Today’s post is on securing gubernatorial appointments.

The Governor has the authority to appoint several thousand individuals to serve in his or her administration during his or her four-year term of office. Some of these positions require the advice and consent of the Senate. There are two aspects to these types of gubernatorial appointments. First, securing the appointment from the Governor and then secondly, getting the appointee confirmed by the Senate.

The likely more difficult aspect of gubernatorial appointments is not confirmation but actually securing the appointment in the first place. While there are many appointed positions across California state government, the Governor usually makes only a handful of appointments that are either controversial or are such an important post that they generate interest. A lobbyist usually comes into play more during the Senate confirmation process.

The first step in securing a gubernatorial appointment is applying for a position. There are documents that can be found on the Governor’s website including the statutory index on all available appointments. Then, there’s information on the boards and commissions including descriptions, salaries, stipends, how often they meet, etc., which is under a separate tab. And then there’s the actual appointment application, which involves an online application that allows an individual to apply for up to ten positions for consideration by the Governor and his staff.

All of these are found on the Governor’s official website.

After an individual has been notified of receiving an appointment, it must be determined whether he or she needs to be confirmed by the California State Senate. If there is no confirmation, then the individual assumes the position once he or she has been officially appointed by the Governor.

For those that require confirmation, there will be Senate Rules Committee review of that gubernatorial appointee. Now, there are two types of individuals that receive Senate Rules Committee review. There are those that are required to appear before the committee in an open hearing and then there are others who are quote: “subject to confirmation but not required to appear before the Senate Rules Committee.” These individuals submit written responses to Committee Members’ questions, but they don’t have to testify or appear in an open hearing. And of course, interest groups can submit written comments to the Rules Committee members if so desired.




Bills, Amendments, & Resolutions – Part 2 (transcript)

Today is part two of looking at bills, constitutional amendments, and resolutions. You can find last week’s post here. Today we’re going to talk about constitutional amendments and resolutions.

Constitutional amendments can be proposed by initiative ‑ that is, by the people ‑ as one of the forms of direct democracy that we have here in the state of California. In this context, we’re talking about constitutional amendments being placed on the statewide ballot by the Legislature.

Of course, in order to adopt those amendments to our state constitution, it requires a vote of the people, a simple majority. That’s 50 percent plus one.

The Legislature, just like the people, has the power to place measures on the ballot to amend California’s state constitution. These constitutional amendments are ACAs, Assembly Constitutional Amendments, or SCAs, Senate Constitutional Amendments.

Constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature require a two‑thirds vote of each house of the Legislature for passage, rather than a simple majority vote. However, constitutional amendments are not sent to the Governor, so the Governor cannot sign or veto a constitutional amendment.

In other words, if an ACA or an SCA passes both houses of the California Legislature with a minimum two‑thirds vote in favor, that constitutional amendment is automatically placed on the next statewide ballot, with or without the consent of the Governor.

Let’s switch gears now to resolutions. Keep in mind that resolutions are formal expressions of the views of the California Legislature. Resolutions do not carry the force and effect of law.

Bills, from our prior podcast, create statutes or amend statutes. Those are the laws. Resolutions are not laws. They’re expressions of support or opposition.

Interestingly, in the California Legislature, there are three different types of resolutions. These three different types of resolutions can be considered individually by either house, or the other two have to be considered and approved by both houses.

One type of resolution is used by either house individually, meaning it only passes that single house in order to take effect. Those we call house resolutions.

The other two types of resolutions, which we call a concurrent resolution or a joint resolution, require adoption of both houses of the California Legislature before they are given a chapter number by the Secretary of State.




Bills, Amendments, & Resolutions – Part 1 (transcript)

Today, and next Monday, we’re taking a look at bills, amendments to bills, constitutional amendments, and resolutions.

In the California State Capitol, there are three types of measures that can be considered by lawmakers ‑‑ bills, constitutional amendments, and resolutions. All of them are printed by the Office of State Publishing, and they’re all made available, usually that night online, and the next day in the Bill Room, found in the basement of the California State Capitol.

Let’s look first at bills. Bills make statutes, and statutes are law. Generally, no bill, except the state budget bill, may be heard by any committee or acted upon by either house until it’s been in print for a minimum of 30 days. This rule, like many legislative rules, can be waived with a three‑fourths vote of the house of origin.

Only legislators of the Assembly or the Senate can author bills. We have a bicameral legislature, so bills must be passed by both houses of the legislature, and then acted upon by the Governor. Our Governor can sign bills, he or she can veto bills, or they have a pocket signature that can allow bills to become law without his or her signature.

Remember statutes, or laws, can only be enacted through bills. I go through the many types of bills in the podcast. There are quite a few.

What are the actual provisions of a bill? At the top of the bill, you’ll find the introduction date and the amendment, or amendment dates where there are multiple amendments. Each date is listed at the top, so you know, easily, what version of the bill you’re dealing with.

Then, of course, comes the bill number. The bill number itself is on the right‑hand side of the bill. Whether it’s an Assembly Bill or a Senate Bill is on the left‑hand side. Then, the principal author of the bill is listed. Of course, if there are any co‑authors, their names are listed under the bill’s author, and that’s done in alphabetical order.

Next comes the date. After the date, comes the title. The title identifies the code section or code sections of the bill that are being affected. It contains what they call a relating clause. “This is a bill relating to transportation,” for example.

After the title and the relating clause comes the Legislative Counsel’s Digest. The Legislative Counsel are the Legislature’s lawyers, and they must draft every bill and every amendment. In the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, they succinctly set forth a brief summary of existing law, and it says, “Existing law provides…”

At the end of the Legislative Counsel Digest are what is called the vote keys. These identify the vote required to pass the bill, whether the bill makes an appropriation or not, whether the bill is fiscal, and therefore will be heard in a fiscal committee, and the fourth key is whether the bill contains a state‑mandated local program.

Then by law, by the Constitution, every bill must have an enacting clause. Therefore, at the start of every bill, it says, “The people of the State of California do enact, as follows…,” and then the bill itself is set forth.

Finally, comes that actual bill language. The bill language is easy to follow, because language that is being repealed is in strike‑out text showing the words to be deleted or repealed, and italicized words are new provisions to the law, so it’s relatively easy to track.

This is to be continued. Next week we’ll talk about constitutional amendments and resolutions.





The Legislative Calendar (transcript)

Today’s podcast is on the legislative calendar. The legislative calendar establishes a schedule for the two‑year legislative session and provides numerous deadlines throughout the legislative process.

The calendar for the California legislative session is certainly important for those who work in and around the state capitol. California’s constitution provides the date for convening and adjourning the legislative session. Other than that, the Legislature has the freedom to set its own calendar for meetings and recesses.

Article IV of the state constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section Three of Article IV provides that the Legislature is to convene the regular session on the first Monday of December in each even‑numbered year in order to convene its organizing session. Thereafter, the Legislature must adjourn by November 30th of the following even‑numbered year.

Now in general, the Legislature begins meeting the first week in January of each year and concludes work for the year either in mid‑September in the odd‑numbered years or by August 31st in the even‑numbered years.

During the calendar year, the Legislature traditionally schedules two recesses ‑ a one‑week spring recess which is generally the week before Easter, and a summer recess that typically lasts four weeks – either the entire month of July or roughly mid‑July through mid‑August in the odd‑numbered years.

In addition, several one‑day holidays are recognized by the Legislature. While the Legislature eliminated the Columbus Day holiday and one of the President’s Day holidays in February a number of years ago, legislators are still permitted to provide one floating holiday for their personal staff.

In addition to the regular session, the Governor may, by proclamation, require the Legislature to meet in special session. Now, a special session may run concurrently with the Legislature’s normally scheduled meeting times and/or during its recesses. During these special sessions, the legislature may act only on subjects specified in those proclamations.




Legislative Lingo (transcript)

Today’s topic is one of my favorites, legislative lingo.

It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that my colleagues and I, those who work in and around California’s state capital, use a number of different terms or lingo to describe different aspects of the California legislative process. I’ve tried to compile a short list of some of the more common terms used in the California legislative process.

I’ll cover a few of the terms here, and the rest are covered in the podcast. The first one is “41st senator.” There are 40 members of the California State Senate who are duly elected to represent the 40 Senate districts across the state of California, about 950,000 constituents each.

Due to the power of some of the staff in the upper house of the Legislature, there are a few staffers, particularly with committees or leadership offices, who are often viewed as being almost as powerful, if not as powerful, as some of those elected members of the State Senate. That’s why we use the term, 41st Senator.

Blue pencil. The term blue pencil is used to refer to the Governor in the State of California has an ability to line‑item veto, specific items of appropriations, either in the budget bill itself, which has numerous thousands of appropriations or individual appropriation bills.

The President of the United States does not have line‑item veto authority, but California’s Governor is one of those states that provides it. The line‑item veto authority can only reduce or eliminate items of appropriation. The Governor does not have authority to increase items of appropriation.

Gut and amend. It sounds rather ominous, doesn’t it? This is when amendments to a bill remove the current contents of the bill in their entirety. It’s gutted ‑‑ the bill is gutted ‑‑ and it’s amended, that is the language is replaced with entirely different provisions that are unrelated to the original contents of the bill. That’s a gut and amend.

Again, I cover many more terms in today’s podcast. Thanks for listening.