There’s often confusion in the California legislative process regarding effective versus operative dates. The most common effective date, basically the so-called default effective date, is January 1 following the year a bill was enacted.
As for operative dates, in 1956 the Attorney General declared that a statute may be worded to provide for an operative other than the effective date. While the operative date may be the same as the effective date, it may also be later. In 2012, in People v. Verba, the court of appeal in California ruled that a bill’s operative date is the date upon which the directives of the statute are actually implemented and that the operative date is set by the Legislature in its own discretion. An effective date, on the other hand, is determined according to immutable rules written into the State Constitution.
The general rule concerning the effective date of statutes is found in Government Code Section 9600(a), which provides that a statute enacted at a regular session goes into effect on January 1 next following a 90-day period following the date of enactment of the statute. A statute enacted in a special session of the Legislature shall go into effect on the 91st day after the adjournment of the special session in which that special session bill was passed.
Why the 90-day delay from enactment to effective date? Effectively, the delay is to permit the circulation and presentation of a referendum petition to have the electorate throw out the statute in part or in whole.
There are also exceptions to the rules in Government Code Section 9600(a). Government Code Section 9600(b) provides that statutes calling for elections, statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for the usual, current expenses of the state, or urgency statutes go into effect immediately upon enactment.
You can find the full transcript of today’s podcast here.