By Chris Micheli
In the California Legislature, as with several other legislative bodies around the country, there is an initial question regarding whether amendments to existing bills must be “germane” to the subject matter of the existing bill. As described in legislative glossaries, “germane” refers to whether a proposed amendment is relevant to the subject matter in the bill.
In California, the Office of the Legislative Counsel may opine on germaneness, but the determination of germaneness is decided by the Presiding Officer of either the State Assembly or State Senate, subject to an appeal by the membership. In other words, the ultimate determination of whether amendments are germane to an existing bill rests with the legislators in either house. Each house of the Legislature has rules related to determining whether amendments are germane.
There are several rules in the State Assembly regarding the issue of “germane” bills regarding their subject matter. Pursuant to Assembly Rule 47(d), the Committee on Budget may introduce a bill that is germane to any subject within the jurisdiction of the committee in the same manner as any Assembly Member. Any other standing committee may introduce a total of five bills in each year of a biennial session that are germane to any subject within the proper consideration of that committee.
Under Assembly Rule 92, titled Amendment to Be Germane, provides that an amendment to any bill, other than a bill stating legislative intent to make necessary statutory changes to implement the Budget Bill, whether reported by a committee or offered by an Assembly Member, is not in order when the amendment relates to a different subject than, is intended to accomplish a different purpose than, or requires a title essentially different than, the original bill.
Furthermore, Rule 92 states that a motion or proposition on a subject different from that under consideration may not be admitted as an amendment. An amendment is not in order that changes the original number of any bill.
Under Senate Rule 23(a), similar to its Assembly counterpart, a standing committee may introduce a bill that is germane to any subject within the proper consideration of the committee in the same manner as any Senator. Under Subdivision (b), a committee may amend into a bill related provisions that are germane to the subject and embraced within the title and, with the consent of the author, may constitute that bill a committee bill.