Key Provisions of the Legislature’s Internal Rules – The Senate Rules


By Chris Micheli

Beyond the relevant provisions of the California Constitution (contained primarily in Article IV), as well as applicable sections of the California Government Code, the State Senate and State Assembly are governed by their Joint Rules, the Standing Rules of the Senate and the Standing Rules of the Assembly. This article provides a summary of the Senate Rules.

Senate Rules

Senate Resolution 4 (de Leon), passed on December 5, 2016, adopted the Standing Rules of the Senate for the 2017-18 Regular Session. The following is a summary of the Senate Rules with the corresponding rule number at the end of the explanatory sentence. Note that some Rule numbers do not exist.

The Senate generally meets daily at 9am, except for the weekend, unless otherwise ordered. (Rule 1)

The President pro Tempore, Vice Chair of Rules Committee, or other senior member call the house to order. (Rule 2)

Senators may not be absent without first obtaining permission for leave. The President pro Tempore can direct the Sergeant at Arms to compel the attendance of senators, unless that senator is sick or unable to attend. (Rule 3)

The order of business on the Senate Floor is specified. (Rule 4)

The Senate may convene in executive session and those present must keep secret all matters and proceedings. (Rule 5)

The President of the Senate (i.e., the Lt. Governor) may preside upon invitation of the Senate. (Rule 6)

The President pro Tempore is the Presiding Officer of the Senate. He or she is responsible for the disposition of bills and other business and must maintain order in the Chamber. He or she serves as an ex officio of all Senate and joint committees. The Vice Chair of the Rules Committee has all the powers and duties in the absence of the President pro Tempore. (Rule 7)

The President pro Tempore may name another senator to perform his or her duties. Or this role can be performed by the Rules Committee Vice Chair. (Rule 8)

It is the duty of the Senate Secretary to attend every session, call the roll, and read all measures. The Secretary of the Senate oversees all printing, certifies all Assembly measures, keeps the Daily Journal, has custody of all measures and records and is the executive officer of the Rules Committee. (Rule 9)

The Sergeant at Arms attends all Senate meetings and processes all commands of the Senate. He or she may arrest for contempt persons found in loud conversation or otherwise making disturbances. (Rule 10)

The President pro Tempore, Rules Committee members, Secretary of the Senate, and Sergeant at Arms are elected by majority vote of the Senate Members. (Rule 10.5)

The Controller is authorized and directed to draw warrants in favor of officers and employees who render services to the Senate. (Rule 10.6)

The Committee on Rules consists of the President pro Tempore and four other Members that are elected by the Senate. Rules Committee appoints all other committees and designates the chairs and vice chairs. They may take into consideration geographic representation and other qualifications. (Rule 11)

The standing committees of the Senate are named and subjects to be referred to each committee are provided. This is a guide, but not binding on the Rules Committee when making bill assignments. (Rule 12)

The Committee on Legislative Ethics is created and requires equal representation of political parties. The chair and vice chair are of different parties. A Chief Counsel may be retained or appointed. No partisan activities are allowed by this person. An ethics ombudsperson is appointed. The committee must recommend standards of conduct for senators, officers and employees. Advisory opinions may be requested and issued. A manual shall be developed and periodic workshops shall be conducted. The committee receives and reviews complaints alleging violations of the standards. There are detailed rules for the handling of complaints. Senate can take actions based upon the committee’s recommendations, including reprimand, censure, suspension, or expulsion. (Rule 12.3)

The General Research Committee is created that consists of the 40 Senators and can act through subcommittees. (Rule 12.5)

A select committee is a subcommittee of the General Research Committee. Select committees can be requested by individual senators. Rules Committee approves the request, establishes the jurisdiction, and appoints members. (Rule 12.6)

Rules Committee can exercise all rights, duties and powers of the General Research Committee. (Rule 12.7)

Rules Committee is charged with general responsibility for administrative functions of the Senate, including books, documents and other papers. Rules Committee continues in existence during any recess until the convening of the next regular session. Rules Committee exercises all powers and duties to operate the Senate. (Rule 13)

All claims for expenses incurred by investigating committees are approved by the Rules Committee. All furniture, equipment and other property are approved by Rules Committee. (Rule 13.1)

Rules Committee incurs and pays expenses of the Senate, including offices in the State Capitol. (Rule 13.2)

Rules Committee is responsible for the safekeeping of Senate property. Department of General Services maintains the Chamber and all committee rooms used by the Senate. (Rule 13.3)

Rules Committee makes and maintains a complete inventory of all property of the Senate and has custody and control of all Senate property. (Rule 13.4)

The adoption of Standing Rules for any special session does not modify or rescind the Rules for the regular session. (Rule 13.5)

Rules Committee is the committee identified in the Government Code related to monies available for charges or claims incurred by the Senate. (Rule 13.6)

Rules Committee must review its non-legislator appointees every two years. (Rule 13.8)
Rules Committee proposes to the Senate the schedules for regular meetings of the standing committees. (Rule 14)

Each standing committee to which a bill is assigned has full power and authority during the session or recess to make an investigation and study concerning any proposed bill as it deems necessary. Each standing committee can summon and subpoena witnesses and require production of papers and other documents. This can be exercised after Rules Committee approval. All state agencies and employees shall furnish to these committees any information and records requested. (Rule 16)

Chair or vice chair of the Rules Committee may designate any senator to attend funerals and incur expenses that are reimbursed. (Rule 17.5)

A member of a committee may not incur any expense unless authorized by resolution of the Senate. (Rule 18)

All requests for the printing of reports of Senate committees are made to the Rules Committee. (Rule 18.5)

Joint, concurrent and Senate resolution, and constitutional amendments are treated the same as bills under the rules. (Rule 19)

In cases not provided in the constitution, statutes or rules, the authority shall be the latest edition of Mason’s Manual or the custom and usage of the Senate. (Rule 20)
A standing rule of the Senate may not be adopted, amended or repealed without a majority vote of the membership of the Senate, one day’s notice to be given, but any rule not requiring more than a majority vote may be suspended without that notice by a majority vote. (Rule 20)

A joint rule may not be suspended by the Senate without concurrence of 27 members. (Rule 21.1)

A Senate or Joint Rule may not be suspended unless the Rules Committee determines that an extraordinary circumstance exists that justifies the suspension. (Rule 21.1)

The standing committees of the Senate are governed by specified rules, including having three officers – chair, vice chair and secretary. The chair presides, unless he or she is presenting a bill. The secretary keeps a complete record of meetings and actions taken by the committee. Meetings are called on the day and hour specified by the Rules Committee. A majority of members constitutes a quorum. The chair sets the hearings and arranges the calendar. A bill may be presented by the author’s representative. Committee hearings shall be open and public, unless an authorized executive session is required. Additional provisions set forth procedures for committee voting, adoption of amendments, hearings, etc. (Rule 21.5)

Committees may adopt additional rules which are not in conflict with other rules. (Rule 21.6)

The vote of a majority of members of a standing committee is required to report a bill, constitutional amendment, concurrent resolution, or joint resolution out of committee. (Rule 21.7)

Accredited press representatives may not be excluded from any public hearing and may not be prohibited from taking photos or recording the hearing, subject to specified conditions. (Rule 21.8)

Any senator who wants to introduce a measure shall send it to the Senate Desk. A bill is numbered, read, printed, and referred to committee by the Rules Committee. All resolutions automatically go to Rules Committee, but may be referred to another standing committee. (Rule 22)

A Member of the Senate may introduce no more than 40 bills in the regular session, absent a rule waiver. This rule does not apply to constitutional amendments or resolutions. (Rule 22.5)

A bill may not add a short title that names a current or former Member of the Legislature. (Rule 22.6)

A bill that assigns, requests or requires a study must be referred to the Rules Committee. (Rule 22.7)

A standing committee may introduce a bill germane to any subject within the consideration of the committee, but must contain the signatures of all of the committee members. (Rule 23)

The Senate Desk shall remain open from 9am to 5pm on designated days for the introduction of bills. (Rule 23.5)

For special session bills, upon introduction, those measures are referred to the Rules Committee to determine whether the bill can be properly considered in the special session. (Rule 24)

A Senate concurrent resolution may be introduced relating to a present or former elected official or immediate family member. Other resolutions can be for the purpose of expressing sympathy, regret or sorrow. (Rule 24.5)

All Senate resolutions upon introduction are given a number by the Secretary. (Rule 25)
Whenever a bill is authored by an individual who is no longer a Member of the Legislature, the Senate Rules Committee may authorize a committee or another Member to be the author of the bill. (Rule 26)

Upon request of a bill author, the committee chair may recommend to the Senate that amendments submitted by the author be adopted and the amended bill be printed and re-referred to that committee. (Rule 27)

A bill or resolution may not be withdrawn from committee without notice first being given to the Rules Committee and 21 votes of the Senate is required. (Rule 28)

If a Senate or Assembly bill is amended in the Senate to create a new bill or rewrite a bill, a standing committee may not place the bill on its consent calendar. (Rule 28.3)

If a Senate or Assembly bill is amended in the Appropriations Committee to create a new bill or rewrite a bill, the committee chair may report the bill to the Floor if there are insignificant costs and no significant reduction in revenue. But first the bill must be referred to the Rules Committee. (Rule 28.4)

Each measure is to be authored by a Member or legislative committee before it is considered or voted on. Each amendment must be signed by a Member or committee prior to adoption. Members of the other house may be a coauthor or principal coauthor. (Rule 28.5)

Voting on the disposition of measures by committee must be by rollcall vote only. A roll call vote on a motion to amend is only done if requested by a committee member or the author. There are specified exemptions from this rule. The President pro Tempore or Minority Floor Leader may add his or her vote to any measure provided the outcome of the vote is not changed. (Rule 28.7)

Any bill referred to the Appropriations Committee that does not appropriate money may not be set for hearing and be reported promptly to the Senate Floor if the committee chair determines that there are insignificant state costs and no additional funds will be appropriated, and the bill will not result in significant reduction in revenues. (Rule 28.8)

Any bill that has a digest that indicates the bill imposes a state-mandated local program on local agencies or school districts must be referred to the Appropriations Committee, and the bill cannot be referred to the Governance & Finance Committee. When the Assembly amends and passes a Senate bill, any senator can request the bill be re-referred to the Appropriations Committee if the bill imposes a state-mandated local cost without reimbursements or contains a complete disclaimer. (Rule 28.9)

A display bill may not be heard or acted upon in any committee. (Rule 28.10)

When bills are reported from committee, they are placed on the Daily File, first on the second reading file and then on the third reading file. Bills returning from the Assembly must on placed on the Unfinished Business file with an analysis provided to each senator. An inactive file must be kept. (Rule 29)

A motion to strike any measure from the file requires 21 votes. If that occurs, the measure may not be acted upon for the remainder of the session. (Rule 29.2)

The consideration of a measure that has been amended by amendments from the floor is not in order until the amended measure has been in print for not less than one legislative day. And it will be placed on the second reading file. (Rule 29.3)

The Senate may not pass a bill that approves a memorandum of understanding until the final version of the MOU is received by the Senate Secretary and made available for review for seven legislative days. (Rule 29.4)

No measure may be considered for passage until a copy of the measure is on the desk of each Member in either printed or electronic form. ((Rule 29.5)

No conference committee on any bill, other than the Budget Bill and trailer bills, may approve any substantial policy change in any bill if that substantial policy change has been defeated in a policy committee of the Senate during the current legislative session. (Rule 29.6)

Before the adoption of a conference report by the Senate, any senator may raise a point of order and put the question whether the conference committee met in public and was attended by at least two members of both houses and approved by at least two members of both houses. (Rule 29.7)

With the exception of the Budget Bill and trailer bills, no measure may be considered until an analysis has been prepared and placed upon the desk of all senators, unless otherwise ordered by the President pro Tempore. No amendment is in order until the amendment has been reviewed by the Floor Analysis Unit. (Rule 29.8)

No conference report may be adopted by the Senate until it has been in print for two days prior to being taken up in the Senate. (Rule 29.9)

If the bill analysis of proposed floor amendments, other than the Budget Bill, discloses that the amendments create a new bill or rewrite the current form of the bill, the measure shall be reprinted and referred to the Rule Committee. When amendments rewrite a bill, the Rules Committee shall refer the bill to a standing committee. The committee can hold the bill, return it to the Floor, or re-refer it to the fiscal committee. If the amendments create a new bill, the bill is referred to the Rules Committee, which shall hold the bill or refer it to the appropriate standing committee. (Rule 29.10)
Any measure or subject matter may be made a special order by a majority of those voting. (Rule 30)

Messages from the Governor or from the Assembly may be introduced at any stage of business, with minor exceptions. (Rule 31)

All Senate measures are to be engrossed after each amendment and before final action is taken on them in the Senate. (Rule 32)

All Senate measures must be enrolled immediately following final passage and receipt from the Assembly. Once that occurs, it is authenticated by the Senate Secretary and the Assembly Chief Clerk and transmitted to the Governor or Secretary of State. (Rule 33)

A motion may not be debated until it is distinctly announced by the presiding officer. (Rule 34)

When a senator desires to address the Senate, he or she rises in place, addresses the presiding officer, and proceeds to speak once recognized. A senator cannot speak more than twice in any one debate on the same day. A senator cannot be interrupted when speaking and no question may be asked of him or her except through the presiding officer. The author has the privilege of closing the debate. (Rule 35)

When a senator is called to order, he or she shall sit down. (Rule 36)
A person other than a Member of the Senate may not address the Senate while it is in recess, except when the Senate meets as a committee of the whole. (Rule 37)

When amendment to a measure are reported by a committee or offered from the floor, the amendments must be in writing. (Rule 38)

Every amendment proposed must be germane, which means it must relate to the same subject as the original measure under consideration. A point of order may be raised on germaneness. The answer to the question is determined by the Rules Committee. (Rule 38.5)

Amendments to a measure offered from the floor are not in order until a copy of the proposed amendments are provided by the author and placed upon the desks of the senators. (Rule 38.6)

When an amendments proposed is laid on the table, it may not carry with or prejudice the measure. (Rule 39)

If a question in debate contains more than one distinct proposition, any senator may have the question divided. (Rule 40)

The previous question shall be voiced by a senator in a specified form. If a majority of those senators present and voting demand a vote, that vote will occur after the author closes on the measure. (Rule 41)

When a motion is placed “on call,” the presiding officer shall order the doors closed and the Secretary calls the names of the absent members. Members cannot leave the Senate Chamber and those absent can be placed into custody by the Senate Sergeant at Arms. A recess cannot be taken during a call of the Senate. A motion to adjourn is not in order during a call of the Senate. (Rule 42)

A motion to reconsider the vote may be made by any Member on the day on which the vote was taken. Reconsideration may only be granted once. It can be considered the same day or the next day, but not further postponed unless 30 senators agree. (Rule 43)

An action where a bill that has been passed or defeated may not be rescinded without the affirmative vote of 27 senators. (Rule 43.5)

Whenever a roll call is required or is ordered or is demanded by three senators, every senator shall respond without debate. Senators are called alphabetically and may not vote or change his or her vote after the announcement of the vote by the presiding officer. The President pro Tempore and the Minority Floor Leader may add his or her votes provided the outcome is not changed. (Rule 44)

When a senator declines or fails to vote, he or she may be required to assign his or her reasons and may be excused by the presiding officer. Unless excused, he or she is required to vote. (Rule 45)

When any senator is presiding over the Senate, he or she shall vote on roll call votes. (Rule 46)

Certain actions require 32 votes of the Senate. Certain actions require 27 votes. Some actions require 22 or 21 votes. (Rule 47)

A bill or constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote may be amended by a majority vote of those present and voting. (Rule 48)

The proceedings of the Senate are entered in the Journal as concisely as possible. Every vote must be recorded and the senator presenting the measure is noted. (Rule 49)

The titles of all measures when introduced and acted upon, as well as a brief statement of the content of information presented to the Senate is printed in the Journal. (Rule 50)
Messages from the Governor are printed in the Journal, unless otherwise ordered. (Rule 51)

It is the duty of the Senate Secretary to order necessary printing and to audit and approve all bills for printing to be charged to the Senate. (Rule 52)

The Office of State Publishing may not charge any printing to the Senate unless there is a written order from the Senate Secretary. (Rule 53)

Persons who are not Members, officers or employees of the Senate may be admitted to the Senate Chamber only as provided in this rule. No one, other than Members, can engage in influencing legislation in the Senate Chamber. A registered lobbyist may not be admitted to the Senate Chamber while in session. Any one may attend hearings in Room 215 or Room 3191. Appropriate attire is required on the Floor. This rule can be suspended by a 2/3 vote of the senators. (Rule 55)


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

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