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.

Misconception Monday – Committee Hearings

Today’s Misconception Monday podcast concerns committee hearings. Before we dive in, remember that you can find all my Misconception Monday podcasts here.

Today’s first misconception has to do with the legislative calendar, which states, “No committees may meet during the last two weeks of session,” but that isn’t always the case.

With a rule waiver, policy committees can meet during this time period. Further, under Senate Rule 29.10 and Assembly Rule 77.2, when dealing with bills that have been substantially amended in the other house that are referred back to a policy committee hearing, those committees are not subject to the prohibition.

Another misconception is that supermajority vote bills must pass out of committee by a supermajority vote. This is not the case. The supermajority vote specification by Legislative Counsel only applies to floor votes in the California Legislature. All bills require only a majority vote to pass out of committee.

Another important misconception is that a committee can pass a bill based on the majority of the committee members present and voting. The majority vote requirement applies to the full membership of the committee, not just the members present. So, if a standing committee has nine members, five votes are required to pass a bill from that committee, even if only seven members are present to vote on it due to abstentions or absences.

There is also the misconception that both the Assembly and the Senate fill vacancies on committees for hearings. While the Speaker of the Assembly may appoint replacements for a committee hearing when a member is absent for the day that is only a custom and practice of the Assembly. The Senate Rules Committee does not fill absent slots for committee hearings.

The last misconception that I will cover here – you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear the rest – is that a Committee Chair cannot preside at a committee hearing on a bill for which he or she is the author. This is the general rule, with one key exception. That exception is when the Budget Committee is hearing the budget bill, of which the Budget Committee Chair is the author.