Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

California Research In-Depth

This State Guide provides an in-depth look at sources of law within the state of California.

Statutory Law

A. Legislative Process

The California State Legislature consists of two houses: the Senate and the Assembly. There are 40 members in the Senate, each serving 4 years with a limit of two terms, and 80 members in the Assembly, each serving 2 year terms, with a limit of three terms. The legislature convenes in a biennial session, on the first Monday in December of each even numbered year and continues until November 30 of the next even numbered year.

1. INTRODUCTION/FIRST READING OF BILL.

A citizen, legislator, organized group, state agency or the Governor proposes an idea for legislation. This legislation is drafted by the Office of the Legislative Counsel, and introduced by a legislator from either the Senate or Assembly. A bill is introduced and read for the first time in the house of origin. The bill is then given a number, a descriptive title and assigned to the appropriate committee(s) for further consideration. Each House sequentially numbers in chronological order its proposed bills during each session of the Legislature. For example, during a legislative session the first bill proposed by the Assembly will be numbered AB1, and the first bill proposed by the Senate will be numbered SB1.

2. COMMITTEE STAGE.

Thirty days must pass before a bill can be heard in Committee (this waiting period can be waived by a 3/4 vote in the house). The Rules Committee refers the bill to one or more policy committees. Bills are assigned to policy committees according to their subject matter, and bills that require funding must also be heard in the fiscal committees of each house. During the committee stage, the bill is presented and testimony is heard in support or opposition to the bill. After a committee holds an open hearing, they will vote by roll call on the bill. The committee chair then reports the committee recommendation to PASS, NOT PASS or AMEND the bill.

  • PASS - If the bill passes through committee without amendments, it is sent to the house of origin for the second and third reading.
  • NOT PASS - If the bill does not pass through committee, and is not reconsidered in its house of origin within 15 days, it is returned and not considered for the remainder of that session.
  • AMEND - If the committee recommends that the bill be passed as amended, it is then either sent to the next committee or to the floor.

Bills may be amended several times while in the committee stage, and a majority vote of the full committee is needed for the bill to be passed and sent either to the next committee or to the floor. Bills passed by committees are read a second time on the floor in the house of origin and then assigned to a third reading.

3. SECOND & THIRD READING.

If the bill has passed through committee, it is read a second time on the floor in the house of origin and then assigned to a third reading. After the third reading of the bill, there will be another roll call vote. If the bill passes it is sent to the other house for further consideration with a repeat of the above mentioned procedure. If the bill is voted upon and passes through the second house without amendments or with concurred amendments, it is forwarded to the governor for approval. If the house of origin does not concur with the amendments made by the opposite house, the bill is sent to a joint Assembly/Senate conference committee until concurrence is reached.

4. FINAL STAGES.

Once the bill finally passes both houses, the Governor has 12 days to either sign, approve without signing, or veto the bill. If the Governor does nothing after 12 days, the Bill is considered approved. If vetoed, the bill must be returned to its house of origin by September 30th of that year or it becomes law by default. If the Governor approves and signs the bill, it is sent to the Secretary of State who assigns it a chapter number. The bill becomes a law on the January first of the following year, as long as 90-days have passed since the end of the legislative session. Bills with urgency clauses are effective on the date of filing with the Secretary of State.

Further Information:

5. WHERE TO FIND BILLS AND BILL INFORMATION?

West's California Legislative Service KFC 30.5 .W41
Contains enacted senate and assembly bills arranged by chapter, proposed constitutional amendments, selected resolutions, ballot propositions, governor's reorganization plans, and state court rule amendments and additions that supplement West's Annotated California Codes. (Current).

LexisNexis:

Westlaw > All Databases > U.S. State Materials > Other U.S. States > California > Statutes & Legislative Materials

Westlaw > All Databases > U.S. State Materials > Other U.S. States > California > Statutes & Legislative Materials > California Legislative History & Bill Tracking

  • California Text Archives (CA-BILLTXT-OLD) Westlaw database contains full-text bills from past legislative sessions (regular and special). Bills are included whether or not they were passed into law. A document is a full text bill. Coverage begins with the 1991 legislative session.

Official California Legislative Information - Official site for California legislative information. Provides the full text of bills, resolutions, and constitutional amendments, and their status, history, votes, analyses, and veto messages. Search by session, House of origin and bill number, keyword and/or author's name. An Index is available which lists all bills introduced in the Assembly and Senate (1993 - present).

Official Publication Archive - California State Assembly Office of the Chief Clerk provides PDF access to legislative information dating back to 1849. Historical Archives of Assembly Journals, Assembly and Senate Histories and Indexes, and Statutes, are available here. Chaptered laws are located in the Statutes section of the database.

>B. Session Laws

After successful progression through the legislative process, each newly enacted bill is assigned a chapter number by the Secretary of State. The compilation of chaptered bills are called session laws and are published annually in the Statutes and Amendments to the Codes. The year and chapter number identify the chronological order of enactment.

1. WHERE TO FIND SESSION LAWS?

California Session Laws

  • HeinOnline:Session Laws 1849-2010 Collection of California Session Laws and State Statutes. Contains general laws, amendments to the Codes, Resolutions, and Constitutional Amendments passed by the California Legislature. Session Laws are arranged in order of enactment (signed by the Governor and chaptered by the Secretary of State).

Deering's California Codes Advance Legislative Service

West's California Legislative Service KFC 30.5 .W41
Contains senate and assembly bills arranged by chapter, constitutional amendments, selected resolutions, and propositions (Current). Also available through Westlaw:

  • Westlaw - All Databases > U.S. State All Databases > U.S. State Materials > Other U.S. States > California > Statutes & Legislative Materials: West's California Legislative Service (CA-LEGIS).
  • West's Annotated California CodesKFC30.5 .W4 Micro. This microfiche edition consists of superseded volumes only (1954-2006).

California Statutes (Session Laws). The official site for California Legislative information. Search the "chaptered bills" by chapter number, chapter year, or keyword. (1993- ).

C. The Code (Subject Compilations)

California codes are arranged in 29 subject categories. California does not publish an official printed code. Commercially published annotated codes are used instead. Both Lexis and West publish annotated codes providing subject arrangement access to the laws of California.

The California statutes are arranged in subject categories and not numerically. The researcher must use the subject category and the section number in order to locate a statute. For example, California's murder statute is located in the Penal Code subject category, sections 187-199 (Cal. Penal Code § 187-199 (2004)) and California's robbery statute would be located in Cal. Penal Code § 211-215 (2004).

1. WHERE TO FIND THE CALIFORNIA CODE?

D. Legislative History

A legislative history is a compilation of legislative documents created during the process of studying and debating a bill prior to its passage and enactment. The legislative history may be used to determine the intent behind the law. Compiling a legislative history for California statutes is a complex process since the state does not maintain a written record of its debates and only sporadically publishes hearings and committee reports. A prior understanding of statutory construction and how a bill becomes a law will aid the research process.

Background information on compiling a California legislative history can be found in the following resources:

  • Daniel W. Martin, Henke's California Law Guide, 8th edition KFC74 .H46. Chapter 4 discusses legislative intent, the legislative process, examples of legislative intent court cases, and locating legislative documentation.
  • John K. Hanft, Legal Research in California, 7th edition KFC74 .H36. Chapter 7.18 provides an extensive list of California legislative resources.
  • University of California Berkeley's Boalt Law Library publishes A Guide to Finding California Legislative History that provides step-by-step instruction on the research process.
  • Los Angeles County Law Library has A Basic Legislative History Checklist that may be used as a step-by-step guide for compiling a California legislative history. Some of the references to resources refer to locations within their own collections. Check GULLIVER or WorldCat to see if they are held in local library collections.
  • Bertha Rothe White, Sources of Legislative Intent in California. 3 Pacific Law Journal (McGeorge Law Review) 63 (1972). An older article with information on locating materials useful in compiling a California legislative history, includes an appendix and index. References in this article may also prove useful in that legislative documentation was not significantly maintained prior to the 1970's.
  • L. Tobe Liebert, Researching California Ballot Measures, 90 Law Library Journal 27 (Winter 1998). Article explains the ballot measure process with references to legislative history documents.

1. WHAT ARE THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY DOCUMENTS?

A California legislative history consists of a compilation of the following documents:

  • The Code. By reviewing the code the researcher can also locate the Bill number and the Chapter numberwhich are needed to track textual changes. The parenthetical history section is usually located at the top of each chapter, some chapter sections also contain "Historical Derivations" with historical content pertinent to that section of the chapter. The researcher should look at the beginning of the chapter as well as specific sections to locate historical content.
  • Assembly File Analysis. Includes bill analysis, digest, amendments and the fiscal effect of the bill.
  • Committee Reports. Though infrequently published, committee reports from 1946 through 1970 may be found in the Senate Journal. The Assembly Journal may contain committee reports dated from 1956 through 1970. Published reports are also listed in the California State Publications, a monthly listing of official publications received by the California State Library from California governmental agencies.
  • Committee Analyses which are legislative committee analysis of bills.
  • Senate Journal and Assembly Journal. The official record of each house's legislative activity published each day that the legislature is in session.
  • Letters of Legislative Intent. Letters written by legislators in support of legislation. Some of the letters may be printed and indexed in the Assembly and Senate Journals.
  • Daily File. Published each day that the legislature is in session. The daily file is a record of the legislative agenda. Contains the Officers of the respective houses, the Order of Business, the tentative schedule for the entire legislative session, the bills that are scheduled to be heard on the floor and during committee hearings.
  • History. Published daily by each House when the Legislature is in session, and then weekly in a cumulative edition. The History is a chronological record of action taken on each bill to date. There is also a semi-final issue that contains information on the first year of the legislative session and a Final issue that contains information on the entire session.
  • Summary Digest. A summary of each bill enacted in a two-year session, as prepared and compiled by the Legislative Counsel. The measures are listed by chapter number, reflecting the order in which they were signed into law.
  • Legislative Index and Table of Sections Affected (TSA). The Legislative Counsel of California compiles this subject-matter index of the status of pending legislation. The TSA lists the added, amended or repealed code sections.

2. WHERE TO FIND LEGISLATIVE HISTORY DOCUMENTS?

A California legislative history may be compiled through the use of a variety of print and electronic resources. Locating the resources is a complex process since many are not available locally. SearchWorldCat to see a list of the libraries that own the materials.

  1. California Legislative History (CA-LH) contains bill analyses and bill histories from the 1993-1994 Session through the 2003-2004 Session. Assembly journals from the 1995-1996 Session through October 11, 2005. Senate journals from the 2001-2002 Session through October 11, 2005. The dates of the holdings may advance as the database is updated.
    • Westlaw > All Databases > U.S. State Materials > Other U.S. States > California > Statutes & Legislative Materials > California Legislative History (CA-LH)
  2. California Legislative History Journals (CA-LH-JRNLS) contains Assembly journals from the 1995-1996 Session through October 11, 2005. Senate journals from the 2001-2002 Session through October 11, 2005. The dates of the holdings may advance as the database is updated.
    • Westlaw > All Databases > U.S. State Materials > Other U.S. States > California > Statutes & Legislative Materials >California Legislative History Journals (CA-LH-JRNLS)
  3. California Legislative History Reports (CA-LH-REP) contains Legislative History Reports for the 1993-1994 Session through the 2003-2004 Session. Legislative history documents related to laws passed by the California Legislature.
    • Westlaw > All Databases > U.S. State Materials > Other U.S. States > California > Statutes & Legislative Materials >California Legislative History Reports (CA-LH-REP)
  4. The Code. See above for information on locating the annotated code.
  5. The California State Legislature web site has links to Bill Information, the Senate Daily Journal(10/2002- present), the Assembly Daily Journal (1995-present), Table of Sections Affected,Agency Reports and similar legislative resources.
  6. California Depository Libraries usually receive all legislative bills, committee reports and session laws.
  7. Assembly File Analysis. Obtain information on these documents through the Assembly Office of ResearchCalifornia State Library and California Depository Libraries.
  8. Senate and Assembly proceedings
  9. Committee Analyses. These documents are generally not published in print but may be found on theCalifornia State LegislatureAssembly, or Senate web sites. Some of the committees provide access to publications, for example the Assembly Standing Committee on Judiciary provides access toSelected Bill Analyses (1997-present).
  10. Daily File. Published each day that the legislature is in session. The daily file is a record of the legislative agenda. Contains the Officers of the respective houses, the Order of Business, the tentative schedule for the entire legislative session, the bills that are scheduled to be heard on the floor and during committee hearings. (Current)
  11. History. Published daily when the Legislature is in session, and then weekly in a cumulative edition. There is also a semi-final issue that contains information on the first year of the legislative session and a Final issue that contains information on the entire session. The History may be available through California Depository Libraries or the Legislative Bill Room.
  12. Summary Digest. PDF available online by the Clerk of the California Assembly from 1968 to 1995. To view the Summary Digest select the appropriate year from the Statutes drop-down menu, and click Summary Digest on the active PDF window.
  13. Legislative Index and Table of Sections Affected (TSA). A subject-matter index of the status of pending legislation. The TSA lists the added, amended or repealed code sections. (Current)
  14. The Clerk of the California Assembly provides PDF access to the Journal of the Assembly from 1849-1997. The Senate Daily Journal is available in PDF from 2002-present. Letters of Legislative Intent written by legislators in support of a legislation may be printed and indexed in the Assembly and Senate Journals.

Other Resources

  • Legislative Bill Room. All Legislative information printed for and used by the Senate and Assembly is available from the Office of State Publishing. Publications are found at the Legislative Bill Room, or offered on a subscription basis through the Office of State Publishing. Researcher may purchase copies of legislative documents that they are unable to obtain locally. Documents include the following: Bills and Amendments, Files, Histories-Daily, Histories-Weekly, Journals, Index, Table of Sections Affected, Enrolled Bills and Chaptered Bills.
  • Legislative Collection of the California State Archives holds the working files of state legislators, legislative committees, caucuses, and state agencies and is a heavily used resource for legislative history research. Also available are videotapes of selected floor sessions and committee hearings from both the Senate and Assembly.
  • California State Publications (CSP) is a monthly listing of official publications received by the State Library from California governmental agencies. the list provides titles of documents generated by California government agencies that may assist with locating historical information on legislation. The list has been published since 1947, with 2001 to present available electronically. The publication consists of (1) an introductory section, (2) a register (consisting of the catalog records produced for new state publications for that month), (3) and an index.

3. WHAT ARE THE STEPS INVOLVED IN COMPILING A LEGISLATIVE HISTORY?

Compiling a California Legislative History is a complex process. A legislative history consists of the documents produced during the bill proposal, passage and enactment stages. Multiple resources must be located and consulted which may prove difficult in that many legislative documents are not consistently published. Legislative intent information prior to 1970's was not well preserved so it may prove especially difficult to locate earlier legislative resources.

The basic steps for compiling a California Legislative History can be found in the following pathfinders and research guides:

  1. Larry D. Dershem. California Legal Research Handbook (1997). KFC74 .D47. Chapter 16 (pgs. 16-18 through 16-21), entitled "Legal Research Strategies & Roadmap Guides" contains steps and resources for compiling a California legislative history.

     
  2. Guide to California Legislative History. The Los Angeles County Law Library also has A Basic California Legislative History Checklist that that can be used to keep track of the materials referred to during the research process.