From Idea to Law: Making Legislation in California Part 2

part 1 of this series can be found here.


The Duty of a Senator is to guard the liberty of the Commonwealth

The Duty of a Senator is to guard the liberty of the Commonwealth

Part 2.  The Policy Committee Process

In Part 1 I described how legislators introduce bills into their respective houses and the first few steps of the legislative process.  We left off with bills being assigned by the Rules Committee to a policy committee that.  The policy committee is where the public has an opportunity to address the legislature concerning each bill and legislators have the opportunity to question the bill’s author and those who support or oppose the bill.  Policy committees each cover a specific policy field and are staffed by legislators interested in that field.  The Assembly has 26 policy committees (and two fiscal):  Aging and Long-Term Care; Agriculture; Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media; Banking and Finance; Business and Professions; Education; Elections and Redistricting; Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials; Governmental Organization; Health; Higher Education; Housing and Community Development; Human Services; Insurance; Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy; Judiciary; Labor and Employment; Local Government; Natural Resources; Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security; Public Safety; Revenue and Taxation; Transportation; Utilities and Commerce; Veterans Affairs; and, Water, Parks and Wildlife.  The Senate has 19 policy committees (and 2 fiscal as well):  Banking, Finance and Insurance; Business, Professions and Economic Development; Education; Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments; Energy, Utilities and Communications; Environmental Quality; Food and Agriculture; Governmental Organization; Health; Human Services; Judiciary; Labor and Industrial Relations; Local Government; Natural Resources and Water; Public Employment and Retirement; Public Safety; Revenue and Taxation; Transportation and Housing; and, Veterans Affairs.

Once a bill has been assigned to a policy committee it is put on the committees agenda (State law requires that 4 days notice be given for bill hearings) and the committee accepts letters from the public and private sectors regarding it.  At a committee hearing the author presents their bill and then those who are in support of the bill are allowed to make a presentation, and the public is allowed to comment.  Questions can and are often asked by committee members to the author and supporters of the bill,  debate often ensues.   After the supporters have finished presenting those who oppose the bill, if any, are given time to address the committee with their concerns, and proposals to remove their opposition to the bill.  After arguments for and against the bill have been heard the author gives a closing statement to the committee.  During the presentation of the bill amendments to the bill can be offered by committee members to the author, who can either reject or accept them, though bills can, and are, amended without the consent of the author.  Once discussion of the bill has ceased the Committee will vote on the bill.  If the bill receives a majority vote to pass it on, then it continues through the legislative process, if it fails passage the bill is dead.  Authors are generally granted reconsideration after a bill fails passage in committee, giving them time to talk to committee members and convince them to vote the bill out of committee.  Once a bill fails on reconsideration it is dead.

After a bill leaves a policy committee on a vote a number of things can happen.  If the bill has costs associated with it (over $250,000) it must go to the Appropriations committee before being heard on the floor (I’ll talk about this fiscal committee in a future post).  If the bill covers more than one policy area (say a bill about about college funding for Veterans that would be heard by both the Higher Education and the Veteran Affairs committees) it will go to the second committee it was referred to.  If the bill is going to be amended, it has to go to the Assembly desk to be amended, read a 2nd time, and then it goes to 3rd reading or referred back to committee.

If you remember from the first post every bill has to be read three times before moving out of its house of origin.  Next time I’ll explain 2nd and 3rd reading and talk about the two fiscal committees.

Tuesday Share (late) for July 21, 2009

I need to get the hang of writing postsbeforehand andscheduling them for later release so they don’t all tumble out at once and then the site goes dead for awhile until I’m able to update again.  I have a lot of great links.  I’m thinking these linking posts are getting boring.  Does anyone who reads the blog find any of the stories I put up here interesting?  Would a themed post be better, or should I simply eliminate them? 

Ok, let the random linking begin!

I’m a sucker for video games and pixel art and this post combines both so it showing up here was almost guaranteed.  Darkstalkers was one of numerous SF2 clones that Capcom made, the games only claim to fame was basing all the fighters on horror staples like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, etc…

Follow this link to see the Penn and Teller Bullshit episode on video game violence.  Penn and Teller are libertarians and I don’t agree with some of the things they say but it is always interesting.

It appears this post already has a theme: video games, and this next link fits in with it as well.  Microsoft is rebooting the Mechwarrior franchise and part of the marketing campaign they’ll be releasing Mechwarrior 4 and its expansions, for free, to begin promoting.

I was going to post a link to the story of the US soldier who doesn’t think President Obama is a citizen of the United States of America and so doesn’t have to take orders from him, but these “birthers” are getting way too much attention form the media which only legitimizes they’re special brand of insane, so I won’t be linking to it and no one else should either.  They people should be shunned and humiliated not giving the spotlight.

A short interesting piece on climate warming and the arguments made against the United States enacting any law or provision that might reduce the use of fuels that contribute to it.  The gist of it is if the USA is worried about other countries not following in our footsteps by simply refusing to provide funding for dirty power plants.  Obviously this issue is more complicated than that but the post is a good jumping off point.

There are too many myths about the Star Spangled Banner (which are in good company with the scores of other myths and distortions about the birth of the United States)  all of which are busted by Ed Darrell from Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

Mediums get busted on this BBC show, I don’t know anything about it I just found the “mediums” so bad and transparant, and the dupe so funny.

Again, let me know if this is part of the blog you’d like to see continue or if you don’t bother reading them.

Reviewing Goals: One Year Later

It's a GOAL!!!!! by Gunnisal

It's a GOAL!!!!! by Gunnisal

Last year I made a list of 15 odd goals, 4 to accomplish in one year, 5 in five years, and 5 in ten years.  It’s been one year now and it is time to review my goals and see how I did for the year.

On July 21, of 2008 I committed myself to accomplishing these four goals:

  1. Start a career in civics
  2. Get a scuba diving license
  3. Be engaged to Diana
  4. Submit work(s) for publication

I started working for the Speaker of the Assembly in the Democratic Floor Alert on January 5th of this year, strike out the first one.  I didn’t have the time or the spare money this year to work on getting a scuba diving license.  I asked Diana Burkart-Waco to marry me on June 20th and she said “yes”, strike out #3, and so far I’ve submitted 3 poems for publication (one to a local quarterly chapbook and two more to another chapbook on the East coast.) 

I’ve also accomplished one of my ten year goals as well: to have a retirement.  It was a vague sort of goal, but when I started working for the State Assembly I set up both a 453 and an account with CalPERS.  Before the year is over I’ll also be able to cross off one of my five year goals:  Be married, which I will be on September 4.  I think accomplishing 1/3 of all my goals in just a year isn’t bad at all and while I’m upset that I wasn’t able to get a scuba license this year, I’m sure I’ll rectify it in the coming year. 

The entire point of writing these goals down and posting them in a prominent place was so that I’d be reminded of them and to actively work towards them.  I think doing so has been a great success.  Looking up from my desk day after day for a year and seeing this list with my signature below them was a motivator.  Furthermore, it has me excited about making new goals for this next year and working on accomplishing the five and ten year goals (four and nine, actually.)

Over the next week I’ll be thinking about what I want to do in the next year as well as come up with strategies for reaching the ones I’ve already set.  When I have those I’ll post them here, as a public reminder.

From Idea to Law: Making Legislation in California Part 1

It is the duty of the Legislature to create Just Laws

It is the duty of the Legislature to create Just Laws

Part 1. Bill Creation and Introduction

Writing all this down is such a hassle and a poor way to explain a fairly involved process, I tried to draw a flowchart that would show just how the system works but either I’m very bad at using simple graphic programs (unlikely) or the makers of flowchart software like their programs being unintuitive and overly complicated (more likely).  So until I can figure out these arcane and obscure drawing programs I’ll have to use words to paint this picture…

Like everything legislation (laws, bills, statues, code, etc.) starts out as an idea.   Most of these ideas come from regular people like you and me (or organizations of regular people like you and me) who’ve taken that idea to their state representative, either an Assemblymember or Senator (find your’s here), and convinced them to try and make a law based on it.  Or the member has their own ideas (truly?!)  Once a legislator has an idea they fill out a form that explains what they want the law to do and how they want it implemented and hand that over to the Legislative Counsel of California. Leg. Council is the team of lawyers and attorneys who work for the Assembly and Senate, they do legal research, draft the actual bill language, find out where in statute it’d fit, conflicts that your new law would create, tell you if a similar law already exists or has been attempted before, etc.  In rare instances they serve as the actual lawyers for members of the Legislature if the they need legal representation, counsel, etc.

Once all the legal book work has been done the draft bill is returned to the legislator for review (by him/her or the people (individuals, interest groups, lobby groups) who originated the idea).  If there are problems the draft is sent back to Lg. Council for correction.  Once the bill has been drafted to the author’s satisfaction the bill (the actual physical document with the author’s signature is delivered to the desk (either Senate or Assembly).  The bill is assigned a number (bills are numbered on a first come-first served basis) by the Chief Clerk, for the Assembly, or the Secretary (Senate).  Once the bill has been assigned a number it is read for the first time at the desk, the California Constitution states that a bill must be read on three different days before it is passed out of a house (this can be suspended with a vote of 2/3 of the body).

Once a bill has been introduced and read for the 1st time, it goes to the Rules Committee where it is assigned to a policy committee for debate and public comment.  The bill is then sent to the State printer to be printed.  Bills cannot be acted on until after 30 days  from their introduction and printing. This gives citizens, policy institutes, and legislators and their staff time to read and understand each bill before it is taken up in a policy committee.

Next post I’ll explain the policy committee process, describe the various Senate and Assembly policy committees, and how bills are amended.