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California State Assembly chamber
California State Senate chamber
A few volumes of the journals of each house (Assembly is green, Senate is red)


The California State Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Californiamarker. It is a bicameral body consisting of the lower house, the California State Assembly, with 80 members, and the upper house, the California State Senate, with 40 members. New legislators convene each new two-year session, to organize, in the Assembly Chambers at noon on the first Monday in December following the election. After the organizational meeting, both houses are in recess until the first Monday in January, except when the first Monday is January 1 or January 1 is a Sunday, in which case they meet the following Wednesday.

The State Legislature meets in the California State Capitolmarker in Sacramentomarker.

The California State Legislature currently has a Democratic majority, with the Senate consisting of 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans; and the Assembly having 49 Democrats, 29 Republicans, 1 Independent, and 1 vacancy. Except for the period from 1995 to 1996, the Assembly has been in Democratic hands since the 1970 election (even while the governor's office has gone back and forth between Republicans and Democrats). The Senate has been in Democratic hands continuously since 1970.

Terms and term limits

Members of the Assembly are elected from eighty districts, serve two year terms, and since 1990 are limited to being elected three times. Members of the Senate serve four year terms and are limited to being elected twice. There are forty Senate districts, with half of the seats up for election on alternate (two year) election cycles.

Recordkeeping

The proceedings of the California State Legislature are briefly summarized in regularly published journals, which show votes and who proposed or withdrew what. Since the 1990s, the legislature has provided a live video feed for its sessions, and has been broadcast statewide on the California Channel and local access television. Due to the expense and the obvious political downside, California did not keep verbatim records of actual speeches made by members of the Assembly and Senate until the video feed began. As a result, reconstructing legislative intent outside of an act's preamble is extremely difficult in California for legislation passed before the 1990s.

Legislative committees

The most sought-after legislative committee appointments are to banking, agriculture and insurance. These are sometimes called "juice" committees, because membership in these committees often aids the campaign fundraising efforts of the committee members, because powerful lobbying groups want to donate to members of these committees .

Legislative analyst

An unusual institution is the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst's Office, or LAO. The LAO analyzes for legislators the effects of proposed laws. The office is staffed by several dozen fiscal and policy analysts. The LAO's most visible public acts are to write the impartial ballot booklet analyses of initiatives and bond measures placed before the voters and to provide public commentary on many aspects of proposed and enacted budget bills.

Overview of legislative procedure

A bill is a proposal to change, repeal, or add to existing state law. An Assembly Bill (AB) is one introduced in the Assembly; a Senate Bill (SB), in the Senate.

Bills are designated by number, in the order of introduction in each house. For example, AB 16 refers to the sixteenth bill introduced in the Assembly. The numbering starts afresh each session. The name of the author, the legislator who introduced the bill, becomes part of the title.

The legislative procedure, is divided into distinct stages:

  • Drafting. The procedure begins when a Senator or Assembly Member decides to author a bill. A legislator sends the idea for the bill to the California Office of the Legislative Counsel, where it is drafted into bill form. The draft of the bill is returned to the legislator for introduction.
  • Introduction or First Reading. A bill is introduced or read the first time when the bill number, the name of the author, and the descriptive title of the bill are read on the floor of the house. The bill is then sent to the Office of State Publishing. No bill except the Budget Bill may be acted upon until 30 days have passed from the date of its introduction.
  • Committee hearing. After introduction, a bill goes to the rules committee of the house, where it is assigned to the appropriate policy committee, appropriate to the subject matter, for its first hearing. During the committee hearing the author presents the bill to the committee, and testimony may be heard in support or opposition to the bill. The committee then votes on whether to pass the bill out of committee, or that it be passed as amended. Bills may be amended several times. It takes a majority vote of the committee membership for a bill to be passed and sent to the next committee or to the floor.
  • Fiscal committee. If the bill which contains an appropriation or has financial implications for the state.
  • Second reading. A bill recommended for passage by committee is read a second time on the floor of the house. Ordinarily there is little or no debate. If a bill is amended at this stage, it may be referred back for another committee hearing.
  • Floor vote. A roll call vote is taken. An ordinary bill needs a majority vote to pass . An urgency bill or a bill with fiscal implications requires a two-thirds vote. In addition, the California Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of both houses on the budget bill and on any bill which would increase taxes (this has posed a problem in 2009, when California faced a major revenue crisis due to the global economic downturn).
  • Second house. If it receives a favorable vote in the first house, a bill repeats the same steps in the other house. If the second house passes the bill without changing it, it is sent to the governor's desk.
  • Resolution of Differences (concurrence or conference). If a measure is amended in the second house and passed, it is returned to the house of origin for consideration of amendments. The house of origin may concur with the amendments and send the bill to the governor or reject the amendments and submit it to a two-house conference committee. If either house rejects the conference report, a second (and even a third) conference committee can be formed. If both houses adopt the conference report, the bill is sent to the governor.
  • Governor's action. Within 12 days after receiving a bill, the governor may sign it into law, allow it to become law without his/her signature, or veto it.
  • Overrides. A vetoed bill is returned to the house of origin, where a vote may be taken to override the governor's veto; a two-thirds vote of both houses is required to override a veto.
  • California Law and effective date. Each bill that is passed by the Legislature and approved by the Governor is assigned a chapter number by the Secretary of State. These chaptered bills are statutes, and ordinarily become part of the California Codes. Ordinarily a law passed during a regular session takes effect January 1 of the following year. A few statutes go into effect as soon as the governor signs them; these include acts calling for elections and urgency measures necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety.


See also



Districts, elections and members



External links




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