Other Constitutional Provisions Affecting the Legislature


By Chris Micheli

Most of the provisions of the California Constitution concerning the Legislature are found in Article IV, Sections 1 thru 28. Nonetheless, there are a number of provisions found in other articles of the state constitution affecting the duties and powers of the Legislature. This article highlights the other major constitutional provisions concerning the Legislature.

Article II – Voting, Initiative and Referendum, and Recall

The Legislature defines residence and provides registration and elections laws and must prohibit improper practices that affect elections. The Legislature also provides for recall of local officers.

Article IX – Education

The Legislature prescribes the qualifications required for county school superintendents, as well as appointment or election of the county boards of education. The Legislature has the power to provide for organizing school districts, high school districts, and community college districts, and may authorize all school districts to carry on programs and activities.

Article XI – Local Government

The State is divided into counties, which are legal subdivisions of the State. The Legislature prescribes uniform procedures for county formation, consolidation and boundary changes. The Legislature provides for county powers, elected county sheriffs, district attorneys and assessors, as well as an elected governing body in each county.

In addition, the Legislature prescribes uniform procedures for city formation and provides for city powers. The Legislature provides that counties perform municipal functions at the request of cities within those counties.

The Legislature is prohibited from delegating to a private person or body any power to make, control, appropriate, supervise, or interfere with county or municipal corporation improvements, money, or property, or to levy taxes or assessments, or perform municipal functions.

The Legislature may prescribe procedures for presentation, consideration and enforcement of claims against counties, cities, their officers, agents, or employees.

Article XIII – Taxation

The Legislature may provide for property taxation of all forms of tangible personal property, shares of capital stock, evidences of indebtedness, and any legal or equitable interest therein

not exempt. This has to be done by a 2/3 majority vote of each house (i.e., to classify personal property for differential taxation or for exemption).

The Legislature may exempt from property taxation in whole or in part a number of types of property, such as personal residences for those injured in military service, and property used for religious, hospital or charitable purposes.

In addition, the Legislature by a 2/3 majority vote may authorize county boards of supervisors to exempt real property having a full value so low that, if not exempt, the total taxes and applicable subventions on the property would amount to less than the cost of assessing and collecting them.

The Legislature may define open space land and must provide that when this land is enforceably restricted to recreation, enjoyment of scenic beauty, use or conservation of natural resources, or production of food or fiber.

The Legislature may provide by law for the manner in which a person of low or moderate income who is 62 years of age or older may postpone ad valorem property taxes on the dwelling owned and occupied by him or her as his or her principal place of residence.

The Legislature may provide for the assessment for taxation only on the basis of use of a single-family dwelling and so much of the land as is required for its convenient use and occupation, when the dwelling is occupied by an owner and located on land zoned exclusively for single-family dwellings or for agricultural purposes.

The Legislature may authorize local governments to provide for the assessment or reassessment of taxable property physically damaged or destroyed after the lien date to which the assessment or reassessment relates.

The Legislature may provide maximum property tax rates and bonding limits for local governments. The Legislature may not impose taxes for local purposes but may authorize local governments to impose them.

The Legislature may not reallocate, transfer, borrow, appropriate, restrict the use of, or otherwise use the proceeds of any tax imposed or levied by a local government solely for the local government’s purposes.

The Legislature may tax corporations, including state and national banks, and their franchises by any method not prohibited by this Constitution or the Constitution or laws of the United States.

The Legislature may authorize counties, cities and counties, and cities to enter into contracts to apportion between them the revenue derived from any sales or use tax imposed by them that is collected for them by the State.

Article XIV – Labor Relations

The Legislature may provide for minimum wages and for the general welfare of employees and for those purposes may confer on a commission legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

The Legislature is expressly vested with plenary power, unlimited by any provision of this Constitution, to create and enforce a complete system of workers’ compensation by appropriate legislation.

Article XVIII – Amending and Revising the Constitution

The Legislature by a 2/3 majority vote may propose an amendment or revision of the Constitution and, in the same manner, may amend or withdraw its proposal. Each amendment shall be so prepared and submitted that it can be voted on separately by the electorate.

The Legislature by a 2/3 majority vote may submit at a general election the question whether to call a convention to revise the Constitution.

Article XX – Miscellaneous Subjects

The Legislature shall protect by law from forced sale a certain portion of the homestead and other property of all heads of families.

Members of the Legislature, and all public officers and employees, executive, legislative, and judicial, except such inferior officers and employees as may be by law exempted, shall, before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe an oath of office.

The Legislature shall not pass any laws permitting the leasing or alienation of any franchise, so as to relieve the franchise or property held thereunder from the liabilities of the lessor or grantor, lessee, or grantee, contracted or incurred in the operation, use, or enjoyment of such franchise, or any of its privileges.

Legislative term limits are provided for Assembly Members and Senators for a total time of service of twelve years, which can be served in either or both houses.

The Legislature may authorize, subject to reasonable restrictions, the sale in retail stores of alcoholic beverages contained in the original packages, where such alcoholic beverages are not to be consumed on the premises where sold; and may provide for the issuance of all types of licenses necessary to carry on the activities.

The Speaker of the Assembly shall be an ex officio member, having equal rights and duties with the nonlegislative members, of any state agency created by the Legislature in the field of public higher education which is charged with the management, administration, and control of the State College System of California.

All of these provisions are of interest because they are granted by the state constitution and provide authority or limit power of the Legislature in specified areas. Some are narrow in their application, but others are quite broad.


Chris Micheli is an attorney and registered lobbying with the Sacramento government relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law.


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