California Legislators Will Face More Bills than Usual in the 2017 Legislative Session

Chris Micheli
Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

The 2017 California Legislative Session, which began last December 5, is officially “off to the races” now that the bill introduction deadline of February 17 has passed. This year, there was an almost 25% increase in the number of bill introductions compared to last year’s total, although there are historically more bills introduced in the first year than in the second year of the 2-year Legislative Session.

We will have to see if that historical trend holds true in 2018. In the meantime, the following sets forth the number of bill introductions each year for the past five years:

Total 2017 bill introductions as of the deadline: 2,495
Total 2016 bill introductions as of the deadline: 1,993
Total 2015 bill introductions as of the deadline: 2,297
Total 2014 bill introductions as of the deadline: 1,930
Total 2013 bill introductions as of the deadline: 2,256

With the Assembly this year allowing a 25% increase in the total number of bills that can be introduced each 2-year session (the new cap is 50 bills every two years, up from 40 bills in prior sessions), we were expecting an increased number of bill introductions this year. Nonetheless, many Capitol observers have questioned the need for an increase in the bill limit.

This year there are just shy of 2,500 bills introduced. That figure is usually 2,000 to 2,200 on average historically. Of those, roughly 1,000 get to the Governor’s Desk annually and he signs, on average, about 850 of them.

During each of the last few years, Capitol observers have wondered if fewer bills will actually be introduced each year, only to be surprised by the last-minute rush of bill introductions. This is often supported by the low number of bill introductions for weeks and weeks, only to see a large volume come in during the final few days before the introduction deadline each February.

The final week can easily see 1,500 or more bills (nearly 1,800 this year) introduced in a matter of 5 days. And, this year, it was especially pronounced with over 800 bills between the two houses introduced on the last day for bill introductions. The following chart provides a cumulative listing of daily bill introductions during the final two weeks leading up to the introduction deadline.

Date Total Assembly Bills Introduced by Date Total Senate Bills Introduced by Date Total Number of Bills Introduced
1/31/17 265 204 469
2/3/17 292 231 523
2/6/17 320 247 567
2/7/17 344 257 601
2/8/17 368 272 640
2/9/17 428 295 723
2/10/17 428 295 723
2/13/17 545 337 882
2/14/17 669 390 1,059
2/15/17 822 453 1,275
2/16/17 1,087 559 1,646
2/17/17 1,687 808 2,495

During a 2-year session, there could be, absent a rule waiver, a maximum of 1,600 bills in the State Senate (40 senators times 40 bills) and 4,000 bills in the State Assembly (80 assembly members times 50 bills) for a total of 5,600 bills between the two houses. This year, the senate introduced just over half the maximum number and the assembly introduced less than half of the maximum number.

Again, next year’s second year of the 2-year Legislative Session will determine whether this year has begun a new wave of additional bills, or whether we will return to the usual number. By way of background, according to the Legislative Counsel’s records, the following are the Session totals from the last two decades:

Total 2015-16 Session bills: 2,915 ABs and 1,481 SBs (4,396 total)
Total 2013-14 Session bills: 2,766 ABs and 1,467 SBs (4,233 total)
Total 2011-12 Session bills: 2,700 ABs and 1,580 SBs (4,280 total)
Total 2009-10 Session bills: 2,799 ABs and 1,495 SBs (4,294 total)
Total 2007-08 Session bills: 3,084 ABs and 1,781 SBs (4,865 total)
Total 2005-06 Session bills: 3,076 ABs and 1,853 SBs (4,929 total)
Total 2003-04 Session bills: 3,118 ABs and 1,918 SBs (5,036 total)
Total 2001-02 Session bills: 3,061 ABs and 2,101 SBs (5,162 total)
Total 1999-00 Session bills: 2,943 ABs and 2,206 SBs (5,149 total)
Total 1997-98 Session bills: 2,817 ABs and 2,242 SBs (5,059 total)
Total 1995-96 Session bills: 3,504 ABs and 2,178 SBs (5,682 total)
Total 1993-94 Session bills: 3,838 ABs and 2,138 SBs (5,976 total)

All of these figures do not include the numerous resolutions (there are three types of them in the California Legislature) and constitutional amendments that are also considered each year of the Legislative Session. We will have to see if 2017 was an anomaly or the start of a new trend.

Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

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