A Closer Look at the Legislature’s Daily Journal Publication

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By Chris Micheli

In both the California State Assembly and State Senate, there are three major publications: History (generally published each week), Daily File (published each day they are in session), and Daily Journal (published each day they are in session).  The Assembly and Senate Daily Journals are a tool that can used to view the official record of the daily transacted business of the Assembly or Senate.

Contained within the Daily Journals is the following information:

Members’ daily attendance
Roll Call votes taken on the Floor
All Parliamentary Issues
Parliamentary Inquiries
Points of Order
Motions
Rulings by the Chair
All actions taken by the Body or its committees such as Committee reports and Bill introductions
First, Second, and Third Readings of Bills
Explanation of votes, absences, etc.
Official communications such as Communications from the Speaker’s Office regarding committee appointments; Messages from the Governor (Veto messages; Proclamation of special sessions); Messages from the Senate (Bills passed by the Senate; Concurrence in Assembly amendment; Appointments to Joint Committees)
Statutorily required reports, etc. to committees
List of amendments considered
Text of any document ordered printed in the Journal by the House

Essentially the Assembly and Senate Daily Journals are the official records of the proceedings of each house of the California Legislature. Pursuant to the provisions of Joint Rules 14 and 15, and the State Constitution, Article IV, Sec. 7(b), the Assembly and Senate Daily Journals chronicle the proceedings of the Assembly and Senate as the official record of the Houses.

In looking through this publication, you will likely find the following information:

Attendance Roll Call — The Members’ attendance roll call is set forth and shows the time at which the quorum was established. Note that a majority of the membership constitutes a quorum. No official actions may be taken on a bill at any time in the absence of a quorum.

A minimum of 41 Members (Assembly) or 21 members (Senate) is necessary to begin conducting business on the Floor.

Opening Business — The prayer and pledge of allegiance to the Flag are the first orders of
business on a Floor Session.

Session Absences — All absences are noted in the official record. Letters requesting a leave of absence are submitted to the Speaker (Assembly) or President pro Tempore (Senate) at least one day prior to the absence.

Explanations of Absence — Letters explaining absences on legislative business are printed in the Journal on the day of the excused absence.

Communications — Communications from the Speaker or Senate Rules Committee relative to the creation of Standing, Select, Joint, or Special Committees, or changes thereto, are printed in the Daily Journal under the Communications heading.

Explanation of Votes — A Member may submit an explanation of vote to the Chief Clerk (Assembly) or Secretary (Senate) for entry in the Daily Journal. The explanation may not exceed 50 words in length and does not need to be submitted on the same day the vote was taken.

Messages from the Senate or Assembly — Actions taken in the Senate or Assembly on both Assembly and Senate measures are reported to this House and entered in the official record.

Introduction of Bills — Bills are placed across the Desk for introduction and their First Reading. This is the first of the three required readings by title pursuant to Article IV, Sec. 8(b) of the State Constitution.

Original Bill Referrals — This order of business ratifies the actions of the Rules Committee relative to the assignment of bills to the appropriate policy committee.

Author’s Amendments — An author may amend his or her bill in committee as often as necessary prior to the hearing by submitting “pre-committee” author’s amendments to the Desk.

Reports of Standing Committees — Reports of Standing Committees are reported to the Desk and recorded in the Daily Journal.

Adjourn in Memory Motion — Requests that the Assembly or Senate adjourn the day’s session out of respect to the memory of a deceased individual (i.e., family member, district official, or state dignitary) must be submitted to the Minute Clerk at the Desk prior to Session. The name of the deceased and his or her city of residence is entered in the Journal.

Adjournment — The adjournment on the last page of the Daily Journal includes the names of all individuals for whom the Assembly or Senate adjourns in respect.

Motions to Re-refer Bills — Amendments may change the subject matter of a bill, making it more aligned with the jurisdiction of another policy committee. A motion to re-refer a bill or resolution from one committee to another committee can be made during the regular order of business.

Request to Print in Journal — Permission of the House is required to print a statement of clarification or legislative intent in the Journal. There are no limits to the length of text.

Second Reading — All bills favorably reported from committee, with or without amendments (i.e., “Do pass, as amended” or “Do pass”), are placed upon the Second Reading File on the next legislative day, whereupon the recommendations of the committee are normally ratified by the House. The second reading of the bill by title satisfies the second of the three required readings by title pursuant to Article IV, Sec. 8(b) of the State Constitution.

Unfinished Business — Assembly bills which were amended in the Senate or Senate bills which were amended in the Assembly are placed upon the Unfinished Business File for concurrence in amendments when they are returned to the house of origin. The house of origin votes on whether to concur or non-concur in the amendments made by the other house.

Unfinished Business — The Unfinished Business File also includes Motions to Reconsider, Consideration of Governor’s Vetoes, Conference Committee Reports, Special Orders of Business, and certain other motions.

Third Reading — Bills are taken up for consideration on the Third Reading File for the last of the three required readings by title pursuant to Article IV, Sec. 8(b) of the State Constitution. This is where the bills are debated upon their merits, and voted upon.

Parliamentary Notes — The previous question may be demanded by five Members and, if sustained, debate is closed and the roll is opened on the question before the Body.

Move a Call — A Call of the House may be placed, which delays the announcement of the vote and puts the vote on the measure in a pending status to give Members on either side of the pending question an opportunity to gather additional votes. A call must be dispensed with prior to adjournment of that day’s Floor session.

Parliamentary Inquiry — A Member may address a question relative to parliamentary procedure to the Presiding Officer.

Point of Order – A point of order is a parliamentary device used by a Member to bring attention to a possible violation of the Rules. The Presiding Officer rules on the validity of the Point of Order by stating either the point is “well-taken” or “not well-taken.”

Consent Calendar — Upon recommendation from the Standing Committee, measures are placed upon the Consent Calendar if they are noncontroversial and have never received a “No” vote. The Consent Calendar process enables the House to take a single vote to pass numerous uncontested bills and resolutions without debate.

Daily Amendments — A complete list of all amendments considered by the House, listed in bill number order with the corresponding Legislative Counsel Request Number (RN), is printed on  the last page of each day’s Journal. The daily total of measures amended and a cumulative Session total are included at the bottom of the page.

All of these publications, including the Daily Journals, are important for tracking legislative activities in the Assembly and Senate. They should be regularly consulted by those who are actively engaged in legislative advocacy at the State Capitol.

 

Chris Micheli is a Principal 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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