102 Common Misconceptions about the California Legislative Process

By Chris Micheli

Over the years, there have been numerous misconceptions about different aspects of the California legislative process. This article attempts to cover many of those common misconceptions and explain what the rule is. Undoubtedly, there are others, but the following 102 are what I’ve come up with so far….


Misconception – Only urgency clause bills take effect immediately.

Under Article IV, Section 8(c)(3) of the California Constitution, “statutes calling elections, statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for the usual current expenses of the State, and urgency statutes shall go into effect immediately upon their enactment.”

Urgency statutes are generally those considered necessary for immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, and these measures require approval by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, rather than a majority, pursuant to Article IV, Section 8(d) of the state constitution. However, the Budget Bill and other bills providing for appropriations related to the Budget Bill may be passed by a majority vote to take effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor or upon a date specified in the legislation pursuant to Article IV, Section 12 (e)(1).

Misconception – Both the Assembly and Senate permit their Members to introduce a maximum of 40 bills per session.

This was true until the 2017-18 Session when the Assembly changed its rule to allow the introduction of a maximum of 50 bills per session. (See Assembly Rule 49(a).) The Senate retains a cap of 40 bills per session. Members in either house can request a waiver from the Rules Committee to introduce more than the allowed number of bills.

Misconception – A bill keyed as a “tax levy” is a tax increase bill.

While a tax levy is usually a collection tool used by the government, for California bills, a “tax levy” is any bill that imposes, repeals, or materially alters a state tax. The Legislative Counsel indicates in the Title and Digest of the bill whether the bill is a tax levy.

Misconception – All bills that contain an appropriation require a super majority vote for passage.

This is the general rule, except for education finance bills and special fund appropriations bills which only require a majority vote for passage.

Misconception – All 2-year bills can be considered at any time in the second year of the session.

Under the California Constitution, any 2-year bill, even those that contain an urgency clause or are deemed to be a tax levy, must pass their house of origin by January 31 of the second year. However, this rule does not apply to constitutional amendments.

Misconception – Like in Congress, the sponsor of the bill is the legislator who introduces the bill.

In Congress and the vast majority of states, the bill author is termed the sponsor of the bill. But in California, the sponsor is the Member of the Legislature, private individual, or group who develops a measure and advocates its passage. The author of the bill is the Member of the Legislature who introduces the measure.

Misconception – Only bills must “cross the desk” upon their introduction.

All measures must be put across the desk upon introduction, but also each proposed amendment to a measure must be put across the desk in the Assembly or Senate in order to be considered for adoption.

Misconception – Bond measures are approved only by the Legislature.

A bill authorizing the sale of state general obligation bonds to finance specified projects or activities is a bond measure. Subsequent to enactment, a general obligation bond bill must be approved by the voters.

Misconception – Double jointing and contingent enactment are the same thing.

Contingent enactment means there is a section in a bill indicating that it is to become operative only upon the enactment of another measure. Double jointing amendments are amendments to a bill providing that the amended bill does not override the provisions of another bill where both bills propose to amend the same section of law.

Misconception – A bill’s Legislative Counsel Digest analyzes a bill’s provisions.

Prepared by the Legislative Counsel, the Digest summarizes the effect of a proposed bill on current law. It appears on the first page of the printed bill. It does not provide an analysis of the proposed law. That is done by policy committee staff in their bill analyses.

Misconception – Engrossing and enrolling of bills is the same thing.

When a bill is amended, the printed form of the bill is proofread by staff to assure that the amendments are inserted properly. After being proofread, the bill is “correctly engrossed” and is deemed to be in proper form. Whenever a bill passes both houses of the Legislature, it is ordered enrolled. In enrollment, the bill is again proofread for accuracy and then delivered to the Governor. The “enrolled bill” contains the complete text of the bill with the dates of passage certified by the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Clerk of the Assembly.

Misconception – Only bills impose state mandates.

State legislative enactments or administrative regulations can mandate a new program or higher level of service on the part of a local government, the costs of which are required by the California Constitution to be reimbursed to those local governments.

Misconception – Local governments determine whether a bill creates a state mandate.

A bill is designated by the Legislative Counsel to be a State-Mandated Local Program, which requires the State to reimburse to local governments the cost of activities required by legislative and executive acts. This reimbursement requirement was established by Chapter 1406, Statutes of 1972 (SB 90) and further ratified by the adoption of Proposition 4 (a constitutional amendment) at the 1979 general election.

Misconception – A bill containing an urgency clause requires only one vote for passage.

A vote on the urgency clause, requiring a two-thirds vote in each house, must precede a vote on the bill pursuant to Joint Rule 27. As a result, there are actually two votes taken on the floor on a bill containing an urgency clause, the first on the urgency clause and the second on the bill itself.

Misconception – Assembly committees may introduce an unlimited number of bills.

Pursuant to Assembly Rule 47(d), unless the Rules Committee suspends this rule, the Budget Committee may introduce a bill germane to any subject within its jurisdiction. Any other standing committee may introduce a total of five bills in each year of a 2-year session that are germane to any subject within the proper consideration of the committee.

Misconception – Assembly committees may introduce resolutions and bills.

Pursuant to Assembly Rule 47(e), unless the Rules Committee suspends this rule, no committee, except the Budget Committee, may introduce or author a house resolution, concurrent resolution, or joint resolution.

Misconception – All measures reported out of committee are placed on the second reading file.

In the Assembly, pursuant to Assembly Rule 66, all bills reported out of committee must be placed on the second reading file for the next legislative day. But this rule does not apply to joint or concurrent resolutions. Instead, it applies to bills and constitutional amendments.

Misconception – Budget appropriations bills can be authored by any Member.

Bills providing for appropriations related to the Budget Bill can only be authored by the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee or the Assembly Budget Committee pursuant to Joint Rule 54. However, this provision may be suspended by approval of the Rules Committee.

Misconception – Senators need a second to move a bill, just like in the Assembly.

In the Senate, to vote on a bill only requires an initial motion; however, in the Assembly, a motion and a second are required before a bill can be voted on by the committee members.

Misconception – A Member may not author a bill during a session that would have substantially the same effect as a bill that he or she introduced during that session.

This is the general rule, unless the Member receives approval by the Rules Committee. Nonetheless, pursuant to Joint Rule 54, this restriction does not apply in cases where the previously introduced bill was vetoed by the Governor or its provisions were “chaptered out” by a later chaptered bill.

Misconception – Any bill can be enacted to take care of a specific issue in a legislator’s district.

Article IV, Section 16 of the state constitution provides that all laws of a general nature have uniform operation throughout the state. As such, a local or special statute is invalid if a general statute can be made applicable.

Bill Amendments

Misconception – An urgency clause can be added to any bill upon a vote of legislators.

Under Article IV, Section 8(d) of the state constitution, “an urgency statute may not create or abolish any office or change the salary, term, or duties of any office, or grant any franchise or special privilege, or create any vested right or interest.”

Misconception – A bill returning on concurrence can be amended.

A bill cannot be amended when it returns to its house of origin for a concurrence vote. The amendment(s) can be concurred in or not concurred in (which results in a conference committee to resolve the differences between the two versions).

Misconception – Submitting bill amendments is the same process in both houses.

The Assembly requires amendments to be submitted by 5 pm or the close of session the day before a deadline.  The Senate does not have the same rule.

Misconception – Committees adopt bill amendments.

Committees actually make motions that a bill be passed with the recommendation that the floor adopt the specified amendment(s) to a measure.

Misconception – Bill amendments need a majority vote of a committee or the floor for adoption.

Amendments to a measure can be made by a majority vote of those present and voting, rather than a majority of the committee or floor members.

Misconception – A bill cannot be amended during the 30 days following its introduction.

The Assembly has a different interpretation of the 30-day wait period contained in Article IV, Section 8(a) of the Constitution than the Senate does.  Once a bill has been referred to committee, the Assembly permits pre-committee author’s amendments to bills within the 30 day period, while the Senate does not permit this.

Misconception – All amendments must be germane to the original bill.

While technically true, germaneness is determined on the floor by a majority vote of the house’s membership. According to the Rules, although the Legislative Counsel may be asked to opine on germaneness, the matter is subject to final determination by the full Assembly or the Senate Committee on Rules.

Misconception – The requirement that substantially amended bills must be returned to policy committee applies to all bills.

Under Senate Rule 29.10, this requirement applies to all bills, other than the Budget Bill.

Misconception – A conference committee cannot approve substantial policy changes if that proposed change was defeated in a policy committee.

That is the general rule. However, it does not apply to the Budget Bill or the budget trailer bills. The substantial policy change had to have been defeated in a policy committee during the current legislative session. (See, e.g., Assembly Rule 68.9(a))

Misconception – Floor amendments may be made at any time.

There are limitations to making floor amendments. For example, under Assembly Rule 69, a motion to amend on the floor is not in order the last two days before the January 31 deadline or the last seven days before the interim recess or the final recess, unless this rule is suspended by a 2/3 majority vote. The rule does not apply to adding or deleting an urgency clause or adopting “chaptering” amendments.

Misconception – A bill cannot be amended to just add a coauthor.

Under Joint Rule 9, an amendment is not in order when all that would be done to the bill is the addition of a coauthor, unless the Rules Committee grants prior approval.

Bill Referrals

Misconception – Only spot bills cannot get referred to a policy committee.

Spot bills are not referred to committee in either house (e.g., Assembly Rule 51.5). In addition, the Senate does not refer bills to committee that only call for studies or reports, but the Assembly does refer such measures to committee.

In addition, the Assembly imposes a deadline for amendments to spot bills in order for those bills to be referred to policy committee. The Senate does not have such a rule.

Misconception – The Appropriations Committees determine whether bills have a fiscal impact and, therefore, are referred to the fiscal committees for consideration.

Under Joint Rule 10.5, the Legislative Counsel keys a bill fiscal without any input from the Department of Finance, Legislative Analyst, or the Appropriations Committees. It is estimated that 80% of bills are deemed by Legislative Counsel to have a fiscal impact.

Misconception – Only appropriations bills are keyed fiscal.

Legislative Counsel determines whether a bill has a fiscal impact. A fiscal bill is “generally a measure that contains an appropriation of funds or that requires a state agency to incur additional expense. The Legislative Counsel’s designation of whether a bill is a fiscal bill appears at the end of the Digest in the printed bill.

Misconception – A motion to concur or not concur is not in order until the Legislative Counsel’s Digest has appeared in the Daily File.

Under Joint Rule 26.5, this is true. However, the motion is in order even if the Digest has yet to be printed as long as an analysis of the bill has been prepared and distributed to Members. In addition, this rule can be suspended by a majority vote of the house’s Members.

Misconception – If the Legislative Counsel’s Digest discloses that an amendment has made a substantial substantive change to a bill as first passed by the house of origin, the bill must be referred to the appropriate standing committee when the amended bill returns to the house of origin for a concurrence vote.

Under Joint Rule 26.5, in the case of a Senate bill amended by the Assembly, it shall be referred to the Senate Rules Committee by request of the Rules Committee Chair. In the case of an Assembly bill amended in the Senate, it may be referred by the Speaker to the appropriate standing committee.

Bill Deadlines

Misconception – Bills can be voted upon after midnight on August 31 so long as the “clock is stopped.”

“Stopping the clock” is the term used to describe the process of continuing legislative business after the passage of a deadline imposed by legislative rule. However, there is no provision in the law to “stop the clock” and the Constitution (i.e., not a legislative rule) prohibits bills from being considered after August 31 in the second year of a Session except for the following: statutes calling elections, statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for the usual current expenses of the State, and urgency statutes. As such, these are the only measures that can be considered after midnight on August 31.

Misconception – The Joint Rules related to committee deadlines apply to all measures.

Joint and Concurrent Resolutions are exempt from these deadlines pursuant to Joint Rule 6. Bills related to the budget under subdivision (e) of Section 12, of Article IV of the Constitution are exempt from these deadlines pursuant to Joint Rule 61(i). Bills which are referred to a committee pursuant to Joint Rule 26.5, Assembly Rule 77.2, or Senate Rule 29.10 are exempt from these deadlines

Misconception – All measures introduced in the first year of the session must pass out of their house of origin by January 31 of the second year.

This is the general rule for bills, but Joint Rule 56 does not apply to constitutional amendments.

Misconception – A bill may not be introduced in the first or second year of the regular session after specified dates.

This is the general rule, but these deadlines do not apply to constitutional amendments, committee bills, or bills introduced with permission of the Assembly Speaker or the Senate Rules Committee pursuant to Joint Rule 54.

Committee Hearings

Misconception – Because the legislative calendar says no committees may meet during the last two weeks of Session, that is always the case.

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

Misconception – Super majority vote bills must pass out of committee by a super majority vote.

All bills require only a majority vote in committee for passage, regardless of whether there is a higher vote threshold specified by the Legislative Counsel. The higher vote requirement only applies on the floor of the Senate or Assembly.

Misconception – A committee can pass a bill based upon a majority of the committee members present.

The majority vote requirement applies to the full membership of the committee. In other words, if there are nine members on a committee, five votes are required to pass a bill, even if only seven members are voting on the bill due to abstentions or absences.

Misconception – Committees can provide nominal public notice when setting a bill for a hearing.

Absent a rule waiver, pursuant to Joint Rule 62(a), any bill to be heard in committee must be noticed in the Daily File for at least four days, including weekend days.

Misconception – The Daily File notice for all committee hearings on bills is the same.

As set forth in Joint Rule 62(a), each bill in the first committee of reference must be noticed in the Daily File for four days prior to the committee hearing at which the bill will be considered. At a second or subsequent committee of reference, a notice of only two days in the Daily File is required, absent a rule waiver.

Misconception – The Joint Rules related to committee deadlines apply to all committees.

This is the general rule, but the Rules Committees are exempt from these deadlines pursuant to Joint Rule 61(f).

Misconception – Both the Assembly and Senate fill vacancies on committees for each hearing.

The Assembly Speaker may appoint a replacement Member for a committee hearing when a member of that committee is absent for the day. This is the regular practice of the Assembly. In the Senate, on the other hand, the Rules Committee does not fill absent slots for committee hearings.

Misconception – Only the subject matter of a bill has to be heard in committee in order for that requirement to be met.

Under Joint Rule 29.5(d), the term “heard” means that a printed bill with substantially similar language was before the appropriate committee and taken up at a regular or special hearing of the committee during the current legislative session,

Misconception – Any committee may establish a suspense file for bills.

Until this year, there has been no limitation in either house. In the Assembly, under the 2017-18 Rules adopted, only the Appropriations Committee may establish a suspense file pursuant to Assembly Rule 58.2(b).

Misconception – A chair cannot preside at a committee hearing on a bill for which he or she is the author.

Under Assembly Rule 60, a chair cannot preside where he or she is the sole or lead author of a bill, except this rule does not apply to the Budget Committee Chair when the hearing is on the Budget Bill of which he or she is the author.

Misconception – Notice of a meeting of a conference committee must appear in the Daily File for the same four days as other committee hearings.

Pursuant to Joint Rule 29.5, a notice of a conference committee meeting requires only one calendar day notice prior to the meeting, but this rule is not applicable to the Budget Bill conference committee.

Misconception – The Appropriations Committees in the Assembly and Senate are conducted in the same manner.

The Senate Appropriations Committee allows support and opposition testimony at hearings even where the author waives presentation. The Assembly generally does not. Regarding their suspense files, the Assembly committee goes through bills by subject matter, while the Senate committee goes through bills by author. In addition, the Assembly votes to pass a bill or announces which bills are held on suspense, while the Senate only votes on bills it will pass off of the suspense file.

Floor Actions

Misconception – Legislators in either house can add on or change their votes on bills.

The Assembly allows its Members to add or change votes after the vote has been announced, so long as the final vote is not impacted. The Senate does not allow this, except for the President pro Tempore and the Republican Leader, so long as the final outcome of the bill is not affected (pursuant to Senate Rule 44).

Misconception – All bills without opposition are placed on the consent calendar.

There are different rules between the Senate and Assembly regarding what is a measure for the consent calendar on their floors. For example, under Senate Rule 28.3(a), if a Senate bill or Assembly bill is amended in the Senate to create a new bill or to rewrite the bill, a standing committee may not place the bill on its consent calendar.

Misconception – Pass on file and pass and retain are the same procedurally.

An author may choose to “pass on file,” thus temporarily giving up his or her opportunity to take up a measure on the floor. In the Assembly, pass and retain” prevents the author from taking up his or her bill for that legislative day. The Senate does not recognize a difference.

Misconception – The floor analyses always list supporters and opponents of the measure.

The Senate floor analyses list support and opposition positions, but the Assembly does not list any positions on their floor analyses.

Misconception – Parliamentary inquiries and points of personal privilege are the same.

A parliamentary inquiry is a procedural question posed by a legislator during a committee hearing or floor session. On the other hand, “a point of personal privilege is an assertion by a Member that his or her rights, reputation, or conduct have been impugned, entitling the Member to repudiate the allegations.

Misconception – The three constitutionally-required readings of bills are the same.

Each bill must be read three times in each house before final passage. First reading occurs upon introduction of the bill. Second reading occurs after a bill has been reported to the floor from committee (with or without amendments). Third reading occurs when the measure is about to be taken up on the floor of either house for final passage.

Misconception – The Lt. Governor can break a tie vote in either house.

The Lt. Governor is the President of the Senate, which is primarily a ceremonial role, except in the case of a tie vote. The Lt. Governor can break such a tie. In the Assembly, however, the motion or bill fails in the case of a tie vote.

Misconception – Bills taken off the Inactive File in either house immediately return to the Third Reading File.

Bills taken off of the Senate Inactive File are returned to the Second Reading file. In the Assembly, bills previously on Third Reading that are moved to the Inactive File are subject to a “one-calendar-day notice” when removed from the Inactive File and returned to the Third Reading file.

Special Sessions

Misconception – The Governor can call a special session for any reason.

Under Article IV, Section 3(b) of the state constitution, it is “on extraordinary occasions” that the Governor by proclamation can force the Legislature to assemble in special session. This is also the reason why “special sessions” are formally called “extraordinary sessions”.

Misconception – The Legislature must enact bills when called into special session.

While the Legislature must convene the special session once it has been called by the Governor, there is no legal requirement that any legislation be enacted, nor even be voted upon. But the constitution does limit what the Legislature can consider during a special session it has power to legislate only on subjects specified in the proclamation, but may provide for expenses and other matters incidental to the special session.”

Misconception – Special sessions continue once called by the Governor.

Regular sessions of the Legislature, and any special sessions not previously adjourned, are adjourned sine die at midnight on November 30 of each even-numbered year. While the Governor calls special sessions, it is the Legislature that adjourns them. Prior to sine die, adjournment requires a majority vote of both houses to adjourn the session. So, if the Assembly adjourns the special session, but the Senate does not, then the session remains open.

State Budget

Misconception – Budget trailer bills can only be passed in conjunction with the main budget bill.

Budget trailer bills can pretty much be enacted any time after the budget bill has passed as long as there is a nominal appropriation in the bill and it is tied by language to the budget bill. And this can be done by a majority vote on each floor of the Assembly and Senate.

Misconception – The budget committee chairs introduce the budget bills as a courtesy to the Governor.

Under Article IV, Section 12(c)(2) of the state constitution, “the budget bill shall be introduced immediately in each house by the persons chairing the committees that consider the budget.”

Misconception – The Governor’s May Revise provides the only changes to the January 10 budget proposal by the Administration.

“Finance letters’ are revisions to the Budget Bill proposed by the Department of Finance.

Misconception – The federal and state governments use the same fiscal year.

The 12-month period on which the state budget is planned begins July 1 and ends June 30 of the following year. The federal fiscal year begins October 1 and ends September 30 of the following year.

Misconception – Budget trailer bills need an urgency clause to take effect immediately.

Urgency statutes are generally those considered necessary for immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, and such measures require approval by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, rather than a majority pursuant to Article IV, Section 8(d). However, the Budget Bill and other bills providing for appropriations related to the Budget Bill may be passed by a majority vote to take effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor or upon a date specified in the legislation pursuant to Article IV, Section 12(e)(1).

Misconception – The Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees are the same.

There are six Assembly Budget Subcommittees and five Senate Budget Subcommittees.

The Assembly Budget Subcommittees are: Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services; Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance; Subcommittee No. 3 on Resources and Transportation; Subcommittee No. 4 on State Administration; Subcommittee No. 5 on Public Safety; and, Subcommittee No. 6 on Budget Process, Oversight and Program Evaluation.

The Senate Budget Subcommittees are: Subcommittee 1 on Education; Subcommittee 2  on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation; Subcommittee 3 on Health and Human Services; Subcommittee 4 on State Administration and General Government; and, Subcommittee 5 on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary.

Governor’s Role

Misconception – The Governor’s line-item veto authority applies only to budget bills.

Under Article IV, Section 10(e) of the state constitution, “The Governor may reduce or eliminate one or more items of appropriation while approving other portions of a bill. The Governor shall append to the bill a statement of the items reduced or eliminated with the reasons for the action. The Governor shall transmit to the house originating the bill a copy of the statement and reasons. Items reduced or eliminated shall be separately reconsidered and may be passed over the Governor’s veto in the same manner as bills.” The Governor cannot veto budget control language. This authority is sometimes referred to as “blue pencil” authority because years ago the Governor used an editor’s blue pencil for the task.

Misconception – The Governor can “pocket veto” a bill like the President can.

In California, there is a “pocket signature” rule, which is opposite of the federal rule. If the Governor fails to act on a bill (accidentally or intentionally), it becomes law without his or her signature. In other words, the Governor must affirmatively veto a bill to prevent it from becoming law. This is provided in Article IV, Section 10 of the state Constitution.

Misconception – The Governor has 30 days to act on legislation sent to him or her.

The general rule actually is that the Governor has 12 days to act on a measure sent to his or her desk. However, at the end of the yearly session, bills passed after a specified date and in receipt by the Governor after adjournment can be acted upon by the Governor within 30 days. This is provided in Article IV, Section 10 of the state Constitution.

Misconception – The Governor must act on a bill within either 12 days or 30 days after the Legislature passes a bill.

There is confusion about when the clock starts running to trigger the 12day or 30day review. It begins when the bill has been delivered to the Governor, not when the Legislature passes the bill. After passage by the Legislature, a bill must still go through the engrossing and enrolling processes before the bill is sent to the Governor. Once the Governor receives the bill, then the clock begins running.

Misconception – Once a bill has passed both houses, it is automatically transmitted to the Governor’s Desk.

As we found in 2016 when a major bill was delayed for more than a month before it was sent to the Governor for action, bills can be delayed in the engrossing and enrolling process.

Misconception – The Governor’s signature on a bill is the final hurdle for a bill to be enacted into law.

To be technical, when a bill has been passed by the Legislature and enacted into law (i.e., after signature by the Governor or a pocket signature), the Secretary of State assigns the bill a “chapter number”. The ministerial act of being given a chapter number is the final procedural item for a bill to become law.

Misconception – All resolutions are chaptered by the Secretary of State, so they are approved by the Governor.

Although concurrent and joint resolutions (but not house resolutions) receive chapter numbers by the Secretary of State, the Governor’s signature is not required on resolutions.

Misconception – Constitutional amendments that are passed by the Senate and Assembly by 2/3 majority votes of both houses are signed by the Governor before being presented to the voters at the next statewide election.

Constitutional amendments are not presented to the Governor, so he or she cannot sign or veto constitutional amendments. Once passed by both houses of the Legislature, the proposed amendment goes directly to the voters at the next election, unless a statute is enacted to change the date the measure appears on the ballot.

Misconception – Enrolled bill reports are prepared for all measures.

An EBR is an analysis prepared on legislative measures to provide the Governor’s Office with information concerning the measure with a recommendation for action by the Governor. While approved bill analyses become public information, EBRs do not. EBRs are not prepared for constitutional amendments, or for concurrent, joint, or single house resolutions, because these are not acted upon by the Governor.


Misconception – The “revolving door” limitation applies to legislators and staff alike.

Under Article IV, Section 5(e) of the state constitution, “The Legislature shall enact laws that prohibit a Member of the Legislature whose term of office commences on or after December 3, 1990, from lobbying, for compensation, as governed by the Political Reform Act of 1974, before the Legislature for 12 months after leaving office.” No such limitation in the constitution or statute applies to legislative staff.

Misconception – Lobbyists can communicate by phone or text with Assembly Members.

Pursuant to Assembly Rule 117.5, while on the Assembly Floor during any session, or while serving on a committee during a hearing, Members cannot use cell phones to make or receive calls, nor send or receive text messages from any lobbyist.

Misconception – Both houses have adopted a formal Standards of Conduct for their Members.

The Senate has adopted an official Code of Conduct for its members, while the Assembly has not. Nonetheless, both houses have extensive ethics and conflicts of interest rules, and both are bound by constitutional and statutory ethics rules as well.

Misconception – The $10 gift rule, which has been in effect since 1974, applies equally to lobbyists and lobbyist employers.

The monthly $10 gift limitation is only imposed upon registered lobbyists. Lobbyist employers have a yearly gift cap of $470.

Misconception – Only a court of law can remove a legislator from office,

Under Article IV, Section 5(a)(1) of the state constitution, “each house of the Legislature shall judge the qualifications and elections of its Members and, by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two-thirds of the membership concurring, may expel a Member.”


Misconception – The statewide general election for legislators is always the first Tuesday in November in even-numbered years.

Under Article IV, Section 2(b) of the state constitution, Assembly Members and Senators are elected on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even-numbered years, unless otherwise prescribed by the Legislature.

Misconception – To qualify for the next statewide ballot, both a statutory initiative and a constitutional amendment initiative must obtain signatures from a minimum of 5% of the electors in the last gubernatorial election.

While a statutory initiative must obtain signatures equaling 5% of the votes cast for all candidates for Governor at the last gubernatorial election, a constitutional amendment initiative must signatures that equal 8% of the votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial election.

Misconception – Any bill enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor is subject to a referendum by voters.

Under Article II, Section 9 of the state constitution, the referendum is the power of the electors to approve or reject statutes or parts of statutes except urgency statutes, statutes calling elections, and statutes providing for tax levies or appropriations for usual current expenses of the State.

Other Matters

Misconception – Constitutional office appointments require confirmation only by the Senate.

For nominees to any of the constitutional offices, those individuals must be confirmed by both the Assembly and the Senate. In addition, the Senate confirms specified gubernatorial appointments. In the Assembly, this role is limited to the confirmation of nominees to fill a vacancy for a constitutional office.

Misconception – Committee jurisdictions are the same in both houses. So, if my insurance bill went to the Senate Insurance Committee, it will be referred to the Assembly Insurance Committee.

There are 32 Assembly committees and 22 Senate committees. Not all Senate bills in the insurance area are referred to the Assembly Insurance Committee and vice versa. Many committees are the same between the two houses, both in name and in subject matter jurisdiction. However, there are a few differences. For example, in the Assembly, worker’s compensation bills go to the Insurance Committee; however, in the Senate, they go to the Labor & Industrial Relations Committee.

Misconception – A statute is in effect until the voters cast a vote on the referendum that was filed.

A referendum that qualifies for the next statewide general election stays the effective date of the newly-enacted bill. If the referendum fails, the statute takes effect not retroactively to its originally scheduled effective date, but rather after the Secretary of State certifies the referendum vote.

Misconception – An adjournment motion is always in order.

Although that is the case under Robert’s Rules of Order, in the California Legislature, an adjournment motion is not in order if bills are still on call (see, e.g., Senate Rule 42). Once the calls are lifted, then a motion to adjourn can be made.

Misconception – The Legislature and the people through the initiative process can make the same statutory changes.

An initiative is a proposal to change statutory law or the California Constitution, submitted directly by members of the public rather than by the Legislature, and initiatives require voter approval at a statewide election. The Legislature can only put forth proposed constitutional amendments because they pass bills that add, repeal or amend statutes. The one exception is a bond measure that is placed on the ballot by a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. Voters must approve bond measures.

Misconception – The Assembly and Senate always meet separately.

The Assembly and Senate may meet together, usually in the Assembly Chamber, in a “joint session”. The purpose of a joint session is to receive special information, such as the Governor’s State of the State address or to hear from a foreign dignitary.

Misconception – The Senate leader appoints all committee members.

In practical terms, the President pro Tempore selects those who will sit on Senate committees. Technically, the members of the Rules Committee are elected to their positions by the members of the Senate, and thereafter the Senate Rules Committee selects the membership of the remaining committees, along with the chairs and vice chairs, pursuant to Senate Rule 11.

Misconception – Like Congress, committee membership is based upon seniority.

Under Senate Rule 11, the Rules Committee must give consideration to seniority, preference and experience of senators, as well as give equal representation to all parts of the state, when making committee appointments. But seniority does not play as great a role as it does in Congress.

Misconception – The Legislative Counsel provides legal advice to the Governor and all the other constitutional officers.

The Legislative Counsel provides legal advice to Members of the Legislature and the Governor, but not to the other constitutional officers.

Misconception – A motion to table a bill or amendments requires a majority vote.

A motion to table any measure requires 41 votes of the Assembly. A motion to lay an amendment on the table is adopted by a majority of Members present and voting pursuant to Rule 86.

Misconception – Resolutions used by the Assembly and Senate are essentially the same.

There are actually three types of resolutions: House resolutions (HR or SR) deal with matters of a single house; concurrent resolutions (ACR or SCR) relate to matters to be treated by both houses, and joint resolutions (AJR or SJR) relate to matters connected with the federal government.

Misconception – The orders of business of the Assembly and Senate are the same.

The Senate Order of Business 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. 9. Motions, Resolutions and Notices. 10. Introduction and First Reading of Bills. 11. Consideration of Daily File: a. Second Reading. b. Special Orders. c. Unfinished Business. d. Third Reading. 12. Announcement of Committee Meetings. 13. Leaves of Absence. 14. Adjournment.

The Assembly Order of Business is: 1. Rollcall 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 12. Adjournment

Misconception – The Republican Leaders in the two houses pick the vice chairs of the standing committees.

Under the custom and practice of the two houses, the Senate minority leader usually picks vice chairs and committee assignments, whereas in the Assembly the minority leader makes suggestions to the Assembly Speaker on committee assignments.

Misconception – Any resolution introduced by a Member is heard by a committee.

As a general policy, the Assembly Rules Committee does not hear resolutions weighing in on matters of foreign policy.  The Senate has no such limitation.

Misconception – A Letter to the Daily Journal must be published in both houses to be in effect.

The Letter to the Journal, generally used to express legislative intent or explain the purpose of a bill, is published in the journal of the bill’s house of origin. It is signed by the bill’s author and requires approval by both the majority and minority leaders in that house.

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


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