California Resources

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

More on California Legislation

Legislative Process

The California State Legislature consists of two houses: the Senate and the Assembly. There are 40 members in teh Senate, each serving four years with a limit of two terms, and 80 members int he Assembly, each serving two years 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 uneven number year.

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.

Committee Stage

Thirty days must pass before a bill can be heard in Committee (this waiting can be waived by a 3/4 vote in the house). The Rules Committee refers the bill to one or more policy committees. Bills aer 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 recommendations 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 tim eon the floor in the house of origin and then assigned to a third reading.

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.

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 mst 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.