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California Legislative Process

The process for a bill to become law in California can appear quite convoluted if you are not familiar with the inner workings. The State is good enough to provide a flow chart diagram on the State website that is a little overwhelming. So, we have provided a simplified version for you.

Initial Steps by Author

There are numerous sources for the idea for a bill. Examples would be legislators, legislative committees, the Governor, state or local governmental agencies, business firms, lobbyists, and you the ordinary citizen. From this "idea" the bill is drafted, where a formal copy of the bill and "layman's digest" is prepared by the Legislative Counsel of the author. The bill is submitted by the Assembly/Senate author where it is numbered and read for the first time in the house of the author. It is then referred to the policy committee by the rules committee of the authors house and printed

Action in the House of Origin

Committee: In committee testimony is taken from the author, supporters, and opponents. There are many options that can be taken with the most common being:

  • do pass
  • amend and do pass
  • no action
  • hold in committee (kill)
  • amend and re-refer to the same committee
  • refer to another committee
  • send to interim study

If any bill with fiscal implications is approved (do pass) by the committee it is re-referred to the Appropriations Committee. 

Second Reading: Bills given a do pass recommendation are read a second time on the floor and placed on the daily file (agenda) for debate on a subsequent day.

Floor Debate and Vote: Bills are read the third time and debated. For ordinary bills, 21 votes in the Senate and 41 votes in the Assembly are required to pass. Fur urgency and most appropriations measures 27 Senate and 54 House votes are required to pass.If these numbers are not reached the bill is defeated. Any member may seek reconsideration and a second vote. If it is passed or passed with amendments the bill is sent to the second house.

Action in the Second House

Reading: Bill is read for the first time and is referred to committee by the Assembly or Senate Rules Committee.

Committee: Procedures and possible actions are nearly identical to those in the first house.

Second Reading: If passed out of committee the bill is read a second time and placed on the daily file (agenda) for debate and vote.

Floor Debate and Vote: The procedure is identical to that in the first house. If a bill is passed without having been amended by the second house, it is sent back to the house of origin for enrollment, then to the Governor's desk. Resolutions are sent to the Secretary of State's Office. If amended in the second house and passed, the measure returns to the house of origin for consideration of the amendments.

Resolution of Two-House Differences (If Necessary)

Concurrence: the house of origin decides whether to accept the second house amendments. If the amendments are approved the bill is sent to the Governor. If the amendments are rejected the bill is placed in the hands of a two house committee composed of three senate members and three assembly members.

Conference: If the conferees present a recommendation for compromise (conference report) both houses vote on the report. If the report is adopted by both houses the bill goes to the Governor. If the conferees fail to agree or if either houdse rejects the report, a second or third committee may be formed.


Within 12 days of receiving the bill the Governor may sign or veto the bill. If he does not act the bill becomes law without his signature. The bill is sent to the Secretary of State's Office and given a chapter number. A vetoed bill is returned to the house of origin for possible vote of overriding the veto. It requires a two thirds majority to override the veto. Urgency measures my become effective immediately after signing. Other bills usually take effect the following January 1.

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