By Chris Micheli
There are several important entities that support the work of the California Legislature. Those entities include the Legislative Counsel, Legislative Analyst, Bureau of State Audits, California Research Bureau, and California Law Revision Commission.
Legislative Counsel (LC) – Founded in 1913, the Office of Legislative Counsel is a nonpartisan public agency that drafts legislative proposals, prepares legal opinions, and provides other confidential legal services to the Legislature and Governor. The LC also provides computer services, data networking, and related customer services to the Legislature. The Legislative Counsel of California is Diane F. Boyer-Vine, who was appointed by the members of the Assembly and Senate.
The LC serves as legal counsel to the Legislature and its members, as well as the Governor and his or her staff. The LC assists members of the Legislature in the drafting of legislative measures, provides legal opinions on various matters (including their constitutionality), and assists the Legislature and its committees regarding issues before them. Legislation cannot be introduced unless it has been approved by the Legislative Counsel as being in proper bill form.
Every piece of legislation and every amendment must be accompanied by a “Legislative Counsel’s Digest” that summarizes current law and describes how the measure changes existing law. In addition, the LC is responsible for maintaining a comprehensive data base on California legislation and California law. The LC is also responsible for maintaining various legislative indexes and summaries of enacted legislation. There are over 80 lawyers working in this office. Importantly, they draft every bill and every amendment.
Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) – The LAO has provided fiscal and policy advice to the Legislature for 75 years and it is known for its fiscal and programmatic expertise and nonpartisan analyses of the state budget. The office serves as the “eyes and ears” for the Legislature to ensure that the executive branch is implementing legislative policy in a cost efficient and effective manner.
The LAO is overseen by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), a 16-member bipartisan committee comprised of an equal number of Assembly Members and Senators. The LAO has a staff of more than 40 analysts and support staff. The analytical staff cover several budget and policy areas.
One of the most important responsibilities of the LAO has been to analyze the annual Governor’s budget and it prepares a series of analyses from the beginning to the end of the budget process on overarching fiscal issues, as well as specific departmental budget proposals and offered its recommendations for legislative action. The LAO’s documents help set the agenda for the work of the Legislature’s fiscal committees in developing a state budget. Staff of the office work with these committees throughout the budget process and provide public testimony on the office’s recommendations.
The LAO used to analyze pending legislation. However, due to budget cutbacks, they only analyze the State Budget. They also provide recommendations for legislators on budget reforms. They participate along with DOF staff in all of the budget subcommittees and full committee hearings. The LAO staff testifies on its findings and recommendations when the Assembly and Senate hear the budget bill in budget subcommittees, as well as in the joint budget conference committee. The LAO also prepares the ballot analysis for each measure on the statewide ballot.
Bureau of State Audits (BSA) – The BSA, which is headed by the State Auditor who is appointed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC), conducts independent financial and performance audits as directed by statute or by the JLAC. This joint committee oversees the work of the State Auditor and the BSA. The BSA also administers the “California Whistleblower Protection Act” and may investigate alleged violations of law as directed by the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
The BSA conducts audits at different levels of government based upon those audit requests approved by JLAC, which is comprised of an equal number of Assembly Members and Senators. All the audits and evaluations must be conducted in accordance with the Government Auditing Standards published by the Comptroller General of the United States and the standards of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
California Research Bureau (CRB) – The CRB provides non-partisan research services to the Legislature, Governor and other elected state officials. These services include preparation of reports on current policy issues, including case studies and examples, data analysis, and development of legislative proposals.
The CRB is an arm of the California State Library and it is involved in special projects and events with partners in the Legislature and various State agencies. The CRB regularly publishes new studies and reports about matters of current legislative or administration interest and it provides specialized library services to its clients.
The CRB has an office in Room 5210 in the Capitol staffed by librarians with considerable expertise in the literature concerning current California policy issues. They share a commitment to providing quick, thorough and discrete services. The librarians have ready access to an extensive collection of reports, studies and other materials concerning current and historical policy issues, as well as many electronic databases. In addition, the CRB convenes regular seminars and presentations by academic and think tank scholars doing work related to current policy issues.
California Law Revision Commission (CLRC) – The CLRC’s official mission is to assist the Legislature and Governor by examining California law and recommending needed reforms to those laws. The CLRC is an independent state agency that was created by statute in 1953. It also recommends repeal of statutes that have been held to be unconstitutional or whose legality has been questioned. The CLRC reports to the Legislature on its studies and submits a list of topics to be studied, which requires approval of concurrent resolutions adopted by the Legislature.
Chris Micheli is a registered lobbyist with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at McGeorge School of Law in their Capital Lawyering Program.