A Look at the Rules Governing the Last Month of Session

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

The following is a brief look at the major happenings at the end of Session pursuant to the California Constitution and relevant statutes. The end of the Legislative Session includes the last month that the Legislature is in session, followed by the month in which the Governor considers all of the bills sent to his desk for final action.

Overview 

The final weeks of the Legislative Session are a proverbial sprint to the finish line. Policy committees have finished the bulk of their work, but many bills get significant amendments that require the policy committees to hear additional bills as the Session winds down. 

The main focus during the last month of Session is on the fiscal committees and their votes on measures that are pending on the Suspense Files in the respective Appropriations Committees of the Senate and Assembly. These bills will be voted upon on Friday, August 30 after the floor sessions conclude that morning. 

The final two weeks of the Session are a whirlwind as hundreds of bills are considered on the Floors of the second house, with most bills having to return for a final vote on the Floor of the bill’s house of origin. There are nearly 1,200 bills pending in these last few weeks.

Once Session adjourns, the work on legislation is not done. Instead, the focus turns to the Governor’s Office and his consideration of an estimated 1,000 bills over the course of 30 calendar days. Governor Newsom has already acted upon 170 bills so far, with another 800 to 900 bills likely headed to him over the coming weeks. 

Legislative Calendar

The Assembly Chief Clerk and the Senate Secretary prepared the following calendar for the 2019 Session with the corresponding authority for these dates:

  • Aug. 30 Last day for fiscal committees to meet and report bills to the Floor (J.R. 61(a)(12)).
  • Sep. 3 – 13 Floor Session only. No committees, other than conference and Rules committees, may meet for any purpose (J.R. 61(a)(13)).
  • Sep. 6 Last day to amend bills on the floor (J.R. 61(a)(14)).
  • Sep. 13 Last day for each house to pass bills (J.R. 61(a)(15)). Interim Study Recess begins upon adjournment of this day’s session (J.R. 51(a)(4)).
  • Oct. 13 Last day for Governor to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature on or before Sep. 13 and in the Governor’s possession after Sep. 13 (Art. IV, Sec. 10(b)(1)).

Constitutional Requirements 

The following are the key provisions of law governing the end of the Legislative Session: 

A bill cannot be passed or become a statute unless that bill and any amendments have been in print and published on the Internet for at least 72 hours before the final vote, unless the Governor has submitted a statement that the bill is needed to address a state of emergency. No bill may be passed unless a majority of members of each house votes in favor of the bill (Constitution Article IV, Section 8).

Each bill passed by the Legislature must be presented to the Governor. The bill becomes a statute if it is signed by the Governor or the Governor may veto a bill if he or she returns it to the house of origin along with any objections. If the Legislature votes again to pass the bill by a 2/3 majority vote, then the bill becomes a statute (Constitution Article IV, Section 10). 

Any bill in the possession of the Governor after adjournment of the Legislature that is not returned within 30 days becomes a statute. Any other bill presented to the Governor (i.e., prior to the end of session) becomes a statute if it is not returned within 12 days. Any bill that was introduced in the first year of the 2-year session that has not been passed by its house of origin by January 31 of the second year may no longer be acted upon by either house (Constitution Article IV, Section 10). 

At the close of each regular session, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly and the two minority leaders must report on the progress made toward meeting the goals and objectives outlined at the beginning of the legislative session (Constitution Article IV, Section 22).

Chris Micheli is an attorney and legislative advocate at the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

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