Has the California Legislature reduced the number of bills it is considering and voting on this Session due to the pandemic and their two lengthy shutdowns? This is the first question being discussed in and out of the State Capitol the past few months. And, the answer is a resounding yes.
The second question being discussed the past few weeks is which house of the Legislature has done a better job of reducing their respective bill load? That question is more difficult to answer. Let’s take a look at the metrics.
Regarding the overall bill load, we need to look at a few sets of figures. We will begin with the total number of bill introductions, followed by the number of bills considered by the house of origin. Out of the 2,223 bills introduced during the 2020 Legislative Session, 682 were Senate Bills (SBs), which represent 31% of the total, and 1,541 were Assembly Bills (ABs), which represent 69% of the total. As a result, the Assembly introduced just over 2/3 of the bills this Session.
Some might take the view that there should be twice the number of bills introduced in the Assembly as in the Senate. Why? There are forty Senators and eighty Assembly Members. So, based upon this metric, there should be twice the number of ABs introduced as SBs. Using that as a basis, this year there were more than double the number of ABs introduced as SBs.
However, remember that the bill introductions limit in the Senate is 40 bills per two-year Session, while the Assembly bill limit is 50 bills per two-year Session. So, understanding that additional metric, one might assume there would be more than twice the number of ABs introduced than SBs each year.
The next set of figures to examine is how many ABs did the Assembly consider before the house of origin deadline and how many SBs did the Senate consider before its house of origin deadline. Based upon the policy committee hearings that were held to consider bills in the Assembly and Senate, 163 SBs and 398 ABs were set for consideration in their house of origin.
That means a total of 561 bills were set for hearing in the house of origin out of the total bills (2,223) introduced this year, which represents 25% of the total number of bills that could have been considered by policy committees this year. Specifically, 24% of the SBs and 26% of the ABs were set for hearing in their houses of origin.
This means that both the Assembly and the Senate reduced their respective bill loads by 3/4. So, each house of the California Legislature only considered in its house of origin hearings 1 out of every 4 bills that were introduced in the Senate and Assembly this year. And, that is why the answer to the first question is a resounding yes.
The final metric is how many bills from the other house are being considered by the counterpart house. In other words, how many ABs are being heard by the Senate committees and how many SBs are being heard by the Assembly committees? This is where it gets a little more complicated. First, the Assembly referred 175 bills that made it over to their house from the Senate. And, the Senate referred 460 bills that made it over to their house from the Assembly.
These figures are different than the number of bills that each house passed out of its house of origin. This is due to several reasons, such as spot bills that got amended and were required to be referred to committee. And, other bills were already pending in a policy committee that were gutted and amended and therefore had to return to their Rules Committee for a referral.
For example, there were just over 70 ABs that were gutted and amended in the Senate and about 20 SBs that were gutted and amended in the Assembly, thereby requiring those bills to return to the respective Rules Committees for re-referral. In addition, the Assembly sent about 100 bills over to the Senate from the 2019 Session to be acted upon this summer and the Senate sent about 25 bills over to the Assembly from the 2019 Session.
These last figures must be factored into the earlier figures. In other words, the Senate was already holding about 4 times the number of ABs than SBs that passed their house of origin from the 2019 Session. Remember that certain bills can be carried over from the first year (2019) of the Session into the second and final year (2020).
As a result, to start the 2020 Session, there were already about 125 bills pending in the opposite houses prior to the 2020 bill introductions deadline. Of those 125 bills, 20% of the total were SBs, while 80% of the total were ABs. So, these 125 bills need to be added to the total number of bills that the Assembly and Senate were able to consider this year.
The last set of metrics to examine is how many measures each house considered from the other house. Based upon the policy committee hearings that are being held in July and August to consider bills, the Assembly policy committees have set 159 SBs for hearing, while the Senate policy committees have set 316 ABs for hearing.
This means the Legislature will be hearing and voting on just over 500 bills this Session, as opposed to its usual amount of about 2,000 bills that are considered. So, between the two houses, legislators will be debating and voting on about ¼ of their usual bill load.
Governor Newsom has signed all 31 bills sent to him so far this Session. He will probably get another 400 bills (my guess) to act upon by his September 30 deadline to sign or veto bills.