Difference between revisions of "California State Legislature"

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::''See also: [[Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions]]''
::''See also: [[Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions]]''
In 2011, the Legislature will be in session from January 3- September 9, 2011. The California Legislature was convened in an extraordinary session to act upon legislation that addresses the fiscal emergency proclaimed by Governor [[Jerry Brown]] on January 20, 2011. <ref>[ftp://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/dailyfile/asm/assembly_First_Extra_Session.pdf ''California Legislature,'' accessed June 16, 2011]</ref>
In 2011, the Legislature will be in session from January 3- September 9, 2011. The California Legislature was convened in an extraordinary session to act upon legislation that addresses the fiscal emergency proclaimed by Governor [[Jerry Brown]] on January 20, 2011.<ref>[ftp://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/dailyfile/asm/assembly_First_Extra_Session.pdf ''California Legislature,'' accessed June 16, 2011]</ref>

Revision as of 22:28, 10 March 2014

California State Legislature

Seal of California.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   Members elected to their first term of legislative service in November 2012 and beyond may serve a total of 12 years in either house (or a combination) Members elected under the old term limits (including legislators with time left under the old limit) may serve 2 terms (8 years) in Senate, 3 terms (6 years) in Assembly
2015 session start:   January 6, 2014
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Darrell Steinberg (D)
House Speaker:  John Perez (D)
Majority Leader:   Ellen Corbett (D) (Senate), Toni Atkins (D) (Assembly)
Minority Leader:   Bob Huff (R) (Senate), Connie Conway (R) (Assembly)
Members:  40 (Senate), 80 (Assembly)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (Assembly)
Authority:   Art IV, California Constitution
Salary:   $95,291/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 6, 2012
20 seats (Senate)
80 seats (Assembly)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
Redistricting:  California Citizens Redistricting Commission has control
The California State Legislature is the state legislature of California. It is a bicameral body consisting of the lower house, the California State Assembly, with 80 members, and the upper house, the California State Senate, with 40 members.

Both chambers of the California legislature have been dominated by the Democratic Party since 1959 except in 1969 to 1971 when the Republican Party held both chambers and from 1994 to 1996, when Republicans briefly held a majority in the Assembly. Each member represents about 423,396 residents, as of the 2000 Census.[1]

California's voters imposed term limits on their State Senators and State Assembly Members in 1990; Senators could not serve for more than two terms (total of eight years) and Assembly Members could not serve for more than three terms (total of six years). California voters modified these limits in 2012 that modified term limits to allow legislators to serve 12 years total - but could spend all 12 in either house (total of three Senate terms or six Assembly terms).

The California legislature has been full-time since 1966.[2]

As of May 2015, California is one of 7 Democratic state government trifectas.


Article IV of the California Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 3 of Article IV states that the Legislature is to convene in regular session on the first Monday of December in each even-numbered year to organize. The Legislature must adjourn by November 30th of the following even-numbered year.

Section 3 also provides the Governor of California the power to call special sessions of the Legislature.


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature will be in session from January 6 to September 30.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session include the biennial budget, prison overcrowding and water bonds.[3]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from December 3, 2012 to September 13, 2013.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included property taxes for education and tax breaks for students.[4]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 4 to August 31.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature will be in session from January 3- September 9, 2011. The California Legislature was convened in an extraordinary session to act upon legislation that addresses the fiscal emergency proclaimed by Governor Jerry Brown on January 20, 2011.[5]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature began its regular session on January 12th, and was scheduled to adjourn on August 31st. Additionally, the legislature adjourned one special session on January 11th of this year, had one ongoing special session that convened in October of 2009, and had another ongoing special session that convened on January 8th, 2010.[6]

On July 28th, 2010 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a declaration of fiscal emergency[7][8] as allowed under California's Constitution as approved in 2004 under proposition 58. Upon issuance of a declaration of fiscal emergency, the legislature must immediately reconvene and may not adjourn until after the fiscal situation is resolved.

Ethics and transparency

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. California was given a grade of D in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[9]



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the California legislature are paid $95,291 per year. They are also given per diem of $141.86 per day in session.[10]

The California Citizens Compensation Commission (CCCC) voted in May 2009 to reduce the salaries of California's state legislators by 18%, from $116,208 to $95,291. In June, the compensation commission voted on legislative pay again, this time to reduce the fringe benefits received by state legislators by 18%. The fringe benefit reduction applies to per-diem payments, car allowances, and medical insurance, and becomes effective on December 1, 2009.[11]

It was originally thought to be the case that the compensation commission is unable to reduce salaries of elected officials in the middle of their terms. However, in November 2009, Jerry Brown in his capacity as California's Attorney General ruled that under Proposition 112 from 1990, the CCCC can "adjust the annual salaries of state officers" each year.[12]

Even with the 2009 reduction to an annual salary of $95,291, California's legislators earn more than state legislators in the other 49 states. Michigan, which has the second best-paid lawmakers, pays its state legislators $79,650 a year.[13]


California does not provide pensions for legislators who took office after 1990.[14]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

California legislators assume office the first Monday of December following a general election.

Benefits from lobbyists

As of 2009, perks available to California state legislators include:

  • BP America, a gas and petroleum company, sponsors an automated hotline just for California state legislators and their staff that allows them to call the company for free tickets to concerts, shows and sports events. The message on the automated service says that legislators may "ask a member of their own staff to call on their behalf.[15]
  • AT&T sponsors a dedicated, private email service that allows state legislators and their staffs use to request tickets to shows such as Britney Spears concerts and Lakers playoffs.[15]
  • Michael Duvall, who resigned from the California State Assembly in September when a videotape was made public in which he discussed his sexual adventures with lobbyists, also reported on his mandatory lobbying disclosures that in 2008, he had received gifts of meals, drinks, concert tickets and "a Bluetooth headset".[15]

Low popularity

Cutaway of the Capitol Rotunda, Photo: California State Capitol Museum

In December 2009, public opinion polling cited by the Sacramento Bee found that legislature's voter approval rating was at 13%. Newspapers reported this as the institution's all-time low.[16]

The legislature's popularity continued to fall in 2010. The Public Policy Institute of California reported in March 2010 on a poll that showed that the legislature's overall approval rating had fallen to 9%, while voters gave their own members of the state legislature an average approval rating of 27%.[17]

Role in state budget

Main article: California state budget

In November 2009, the California Legislative Analyst's Office released a document, "The 2010-11 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook." The report says "...the state must address a General Fund budget problem of $20.7 billion between now and the time the Legislature enacts a 2010–11 state budget plan...Addressing this large shortfall will require painful choices—on top of the difficult choices the Legislature made earlier this year." The report also says "The vast majority" of the current year problem can be attributed to the state's inability to implement several major solutions in the July 2009 budget plan."[18][19]

John Myers, the Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED's "The California Report", said the hard-hitting LAO report "makes it clear that the current problem really lies at the feet of 120 legislators and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger."[19]

A 2/3rds vote is required in the state legislature to raise taxes. An End the Two-Thirds Requirement proposition is circulating in preparation for the November 2, 2010 ballot. Sponsors include those in the state who believe that the state's budget gap should be made up with higher taxes.[20]

Legislative sessions

Length of

See also: States with a full-time legislature

California is one of 11 states defined as having a full-time legislature, and it has the distinction of having the longest scheduled session of any state legislature in the country.[21]

Proposal to split

See also: California Senate Constitutional Amendment 2 (2010)

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg proposed in December 2009 that the business that comes before the state legislature be divided, so that the two-year legislative sessions include a year confined to budgeting and oversight and a year confined to the consideration of new legislation. If the California legislature agrees to this change, it would join 15 other states where the state budget is considered in only one year of a state's two-year legislative session.[21]

Steinberg's proposal would return the California legislature to a system of alternate years of budgeting and legislation that it used from the end of World War II until 1966. In 1966, voters passed Proposition 1A, which created a full-time legislature and annual budgeting.

Steinberg's proposal is similar to a proposed constitutional amendment, SCA 2, sponsored by Mark Wyland.

Number of bills

The 2009 session of the state legislature approved about 1,000 bills, sending them on to the Governor of California for his signature.[22]

Current balance-of-power

Partisan composition of the 2009-2010 assembly

State assembly

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 52
     Republican Party 28
Total 80

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the California State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the California State House.PNG

State senate

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 25
     Republican Party 14
     Vacancy 1
Total 40

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the California State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the California State Senate.PNG

Terms and term limits

California voters imposed term limits on the California Legislature in 1990, when they voted in favor of Proposition 140 by a margin of 52-48%. Proposition 140 limits state Assembly members to three two-year terms and state senators to two four-year terms, and imposes a lifelong ban against seeking the same office once the limits have been reached.

Bates v. Jones

In the case of Bates v. Jones, Bates--a termed-out Assemblyman--sued in federal court to have the provisions of Proposition 140 declared unconstitutional. A federal court agreed with his claim, before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled against him, keeping the limits in place.

Proposition 45 in 2002

Main article: California Proposition 45 (2002)

California State Senate president pro tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) vigorously sponsored an effort in 2002 to rollback the provisions of 1990's Proposition 140 by putting Proposition 45 on the March 2002 ballot. Voters rejected Proposition 45 by a margin of 42-58%. Had Proposition 45 passed, it would have allowed state legislators to serve for four years beyond the limits allowed by Proposition 140.

Proposition 93 in 2008

Main article: California Proposition 93 (2008)

Proposition 93, an initiated constitutional amendment supported by Don Perata was defeated 53.6% to 46.4% during the February 5, 2008 statewide primary election. Had it passed, members of the California State Legislature would have been allowed to remain in their current office up to 12 years.


Main article: California State Senate

The California State Senate is the upper house of the California State Legislature. There are 40 State Senators. The state legislature meets in the state capital, Sacramento. The Lieutenant Governor is the ex officio President of the Senate. The officers of the Senate, elected at the start of each legislative session, are; President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Secretary of the Senate Gregory Schmidt, and Senate Sergeant at Arms Tony Beard.

Prior to 1968, state senate districts were restricted such that one county could only hold at most one seat. This led to the situation of Los Angeles County, with 6 million residents as of 1968, receiving 600 times less representation than residents of Alpine County and Calaveras County, some of California's least populous counties. The Reynolds v. Sims decision by the United States Supreme Court compelled all states to draw up districts that were apportioned by population rather than geography. As such, boundaries were changed such that equal representation was provided.

Senators serve four year terms. The terms of the Senators are staggered so that half the membership is elected every two years. The Senators representing the odd-numbered districts are elected in years evenly divisible by four. The Senators from the even-numbered districts are elected in the intervening even-numbered years.

Since the passage of Prop 140 in 1990, California senators have been limited to two terms in office.

Each member represents an average of 931,349 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[23] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 846,791.[24]

State Assembly

Main article: California State Assembly

The California State Assembly is the lower house of the California State Legislature. There are 80 members to the Assembly, representing a relatively equal amount of constituencies. Each member represents an average of 465,674 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[25] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 423,396.[26] Due to the state's large population and relatively small legislature, the Assembly has the largest population per representative ratio of any lower house legislature in the United States; only the federal U.S. House of Representatives has a larger ratio.


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, California
Partisan breakdown of the California legislature from 1992-2013

California State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the California State Senate for all 22 years. The California State Senate is 1 of 16 state senates that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. During the final three years of the study, California was under Democratic trifectas.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

California State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the California State House of Representatives for all 22 years. The California State House is one of 18 state Houses that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. During the final three years of the study, California was under Democratic trifectas.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states have divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of California, the California State Senate and the California House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of California state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Arkansas state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. California has never had a Republican trifecta, but did have Democratic trifectas between the years 1999 and 2003 and again after 2010 to the present. California fell steadily in the SQLI ranking until finally reaching the bottom-10 in 2010. The state reached its highest ranking (28th) in 1998 and 1999, first under divided government and then under a Democratic trifecta. The state’s lowest ranking (48th) occurred recently in 2012 under a Democratic trifecta. Except for the years 1995 and 1996, the California legislature has been consistently under Democratic control.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 37.00
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with divided government: 35.21
Chart displaying the partisanship of California government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

Initiative rights

Although the California Constitution establishes the right of California citizens to directly legislate vian initiated constitutional amendments and initiated state statutes, the state legislature develops the ground rules for most of the details of the laws governing the initiative process in California. Through these rules, it can make the initiative process easier or harder, and less expensive or more expensive.

The state legislature can also propose constitutional changes to the initiative process. Several such changes were proposed in the 2009-2010 session of the state legislature. The sponsors of these changes hope to gain the approval of enough of their fellow legislators to qualify their proposed changes for the 2010 ballot.

Type Title Subject Description Sponsor
LRCA ACA 13 Direct democracy measures Give state legislature right to change initiated constitutional amendments after signatures are collected Edward Hernandez
Direct democracy measures Limit to five the number of initiatives on any single statewide ballot. Edward Hernandez
LRCA ACA 20 Direct democracy measures California Legislative Analyst's Office would write ballot titles instead of the attorney general Roger Niello
LRCA ACA 21 Direct democracy measures To be approved, a ballot initiative would require a 2/3rds vote rather than the current simple majority Charles Calderon
LRCA SCA 16 Direct democracy measures Fewer signatures needed for initiatives if first reviewed by legislature Mark DeSaulnier

Ballot referrals

The California State Legislature has the authority to refer statewide ballot propositions to the ballot; these can be:

In November 2009, Robert Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies told the Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Improving State Government at a hearing in Oakland that of the 68 ballot measures approved between 1988 and 2009 that had a price tag attached to them, 51 (or 75%) were legislatively-referred constitutional amendments or legislatively-referred state statutes. The legislatively-referred measures cost $9.8 billion versus $2.05 billion for citizen-initiated measures, according to the CGS.[27]

Year Referred amendments Referred statutes Total referrals
2009 6 0 6
2008 0 2 2
2006 1 5 6
2004 5 2 7
2003 1 - 1
2002 3 5 8
2000 6 7 13
1998 6 3 9
1996 1 9 10
1994 9 4 13
1993 5 1 6
1992 5 4 9
1990 8 19 27
1988 9 14 23
1986 10 8 18

Joint legislative committees

The California State Legislature has seven joint standing committees.

External links


  1. Population in 2000 of the American states, Accessed November 27, 2013
  2. Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Laird leads fight against part-time Legislature", September 26, 2009
  3. acwa.com, "2014 Legislative Year Begins in Sacramento," January 6, 2014
  4. San Francisco Chronicle, "Calif. Democrats ponder their new power," December 2, 2012
  5. California Legislature, accessed June 16, 2011
  6. Session dates for California legislature, 2010
  7. Schwarzenegger, Arnold (July 28, 2010) "Gov. Schwarzenegger Declares State of Emergency, Issues Executive Order to Impose Furloughs Due to Cash Crisis Caused By Budget Impasse" Office of the Governor. Retrieved August 24, 2010
  8. Schwarzenegger, Arnold. (July 28, 2010) "Executive Order S-12-10" Office of the Governor. Retrieved August 24, 2010.
  9. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  10. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  11. Ventura County Star, "Commission votes to cut state legislators' benefits", June 30, 2009
  12. Legal Newsline, "Business leader praises Brown opinion on gov't salaries", November 21, 2009
  13. Record.Net, "Earning their keep: Bid for part-time Legislature wouldn't fix anything", April 5, 2010
  14. USA Today, "State-by-state: Benefits available to state legislators," September 23, 2011
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Los Angeles Times, "Duvall incident spotlights politicians' perks in capital", September 11, 2009
  16. Sacramento Bee, "California redistricting commission wants a few good citizens", December 16, 2009
  17. Central Valley Business Times, "California voters angry, irritated, pessimistic says new survey", March 24, 2010
  18. Legislative Analyst's Office, "The 2010-11 Budget: California's Fiscal Outlook", November 18, 2009
  19. 19.0 19.1 KQED Capital Notes, "$21 billion deficit now, worse later", November 18, 2009
  20. Time, "California's Budget Crisis: Is There a Way Out?", July 2, 2009
  21. 21.0 21.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "Lawmaker wants to split legislative sessions", December 25, 2009
  22. Long Beach Press Telegram, "A modest set of reforms", January 31, 2010
  23. www.census.gov/, "Population in 2010 of the American states," accessed January 6, 2014
  24. Population in 2000 of the American states, Accessed November 27, 2013
  25. www.census.gov/, "Population in 2010 of the American states," accessed January 6, 2014
  26. Population in 2000 of the American states, Accessed November 27, 2013
  27. Contra Costa Times, "Legislators, not citizens, put pricey measures on the ballot", November 18, 2009