Glossary of Legislative Terms

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In the senate, when a bill does not appropriate money and when it has been determined in policy committee that a bill has no significant fiscal impact, it is not heard in the fiscal committee of the senate, but is sent directly to the senate floor and put on the Second Reading File.

31-Day Period

The period of time a bill (except the Budget Bill) must be in print before it can be heard in committee or acted upon by the house. This rule can be waived with 3/4 vote of the members of the house.

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Across the Desk

The actual movement of a measure across the desk in either house for purposes of logging in.


A proposition for consideration by the Legislature, or often referred to as a measure already adopted by the Legislature.


The consideration of any motion made on a bill, resolution, or other legislative matter.


The official ending of the business of a committee, floor session, or other legislative session.

Adjournment Sine Die

Final termination of the Legislature in that session; occurring on the last day of a session with no immediate future meeting date being set, except as previously provided for in the constitution.


Approval or acceptance; usually applied to amendments or resolutions.

Advice and Consent

The process of senate confirmation of certain governor's appointees.


The addition or deletion of language from the text of a bill.


Money set apart by formal action for a specific purpose.


Division of the state into districts from which representatives to the State Legislature and U.S. Congress are elected.

Approved by the Governor

Governor's signature on a bill which has been passed by the Legislature.


The lower house of the California Legislature, consisting of 80 members, elected from districts apportioned on the basis of population, who serve no more than three two-year terms.

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Become Law Without Governor's Signature

A bill that is neither signed nor vetoed within the twelve-day enrollment period becomes law without the governor's signature. This allows the governor to allow a measure to become law, although he may be reluctant to give it his or her approval for personal or political reasons.


A two-house legislature.


A proposed addition, deletion, or amendment of current law.

Blue Pencil

The term used to describe the governor's veto of certain items from the budget bill or certain appropriations from other bills.


Suggested allocation of state monies presented annually by the governor for consideration by the Legislature; compiled by the Department of Finance in conjunction with the state department heads.

Budget Bill

The Legislature's modification of the governor's budget; one bill prepared in each house.

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Call of the House

An order to require the absent members to return to the floor to vote upon a matter before them.

Casting Vote

The deciding vote which the lieutenant governor (acting as president of the senate) may cast in the case of a tie vote in the senate.


A closed meeting of one political party called by the party leadership to discuss a particular piece of legislation or political strategy.

Chapter Out

When a bill becomes law its provisions will override any conflicting provisions in existing law; thus chaptering out earlier law. Sometimes bills are double-joined to prevent one bill being chaptered out by another one introduced during the same session.

Chaptered Bill

Each bill that becomes law is filed with the secretary of state and given an official "chapter number" to act as a reference number. A chaptered bill is one that has become law.


The approval of amendments to a bill added by the other house. If the house of origin concurs, the bill will go to the governor.

Concurrent Resolution

Legislative declarations on matters relating to both houses, such as the creation of joint committees or the memorialization of the death of a prominent citizen (ACRs and SCRs).

Conference Committee

A joint committee composed of three senators and three assemblymembers created to reconcile the differences between the houses on a particular bill.

Conference Report

The document issued that represents the document created in the conference committee to reconcile the differences between the houses; must still be adopted by the members of each house.

Consent Calendar

A set of non-controversial bills, grouped together and voted out of a committee or on the floor as a package. These must have unanimous consent, and any member of the Legislature may remove a bill from the consent calendar. Whenever one of these measures is amended it must be removed from the consent calendar, although it may later be returned to the consent calendar.

Constitutional Amendment

A bill proposing a change in the California State Constitution. Such measures must be approved by a 2/3 vote of each house, then be submitted to the voters in the next election (ACAs and SCAs).

Control Language

Budget Act language that directs or puts limitations on expenditures of budget appropriations.


To assemble or call together a meeting. The Legislature convenes daily, weekly, and at the beginning of a session as provided by the California Constitution.

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Department of Finance

A part of the executive branch charged with helping the governor prepare, submit and analyze the state's budget as well as analyzing bills with fiscal impact.

Do Pass

A favorable recommendation from a committee; thus sending a bill to the floor for final vote.

Do Pass as Amended

A favorable recommendation from a committee providing certain changes are made.

Do Pass, Consent

A favorable recommendation from a committee and the request to place the measure on the floor's consent calendar.

Double Join

Language added to a bill that makes its passage contingent upon another bill's passage to avoid one bill chaptering out the other.

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Enacting Clause

By statutory provision, each proposed law must be proceeded by the phrase, "The People of the State of California do enact as follows."


The final processing of a bill by the clerk of the house before it is sent to the governor for action. At this point the text is checked for errors.


The official sending of a bill to the governor. The bill is documented on the exact time and date it is delivered to the governor. The governor then has twelve days to sign, veto or line-item veto the measure or it will become law without his/her signature.

Expunge the Record

The annulling of an action to prevent it from being printed in the official record of the state; the erasure of an action.

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The daily agenda of the business for the day and upcoming hearings. Includes a listing of bills to be heard on the floor and in committees. Each house prints their own file.

Fiscal Committee

The standing committees of each house that must approve all bills with a fiscal impact. In the senate either the Appropriations Committee or the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee; in the assembly, the Ways and Means Committee.


The interior of either house; sometimes used to distinguish the membership from the presiding officers. Matters before the house may be referred to as "on the floor."

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Held in Committee

A bill has failed to garner sufficient votes to pass out of committee; as a"face saving" device for the author, the bill is allowed to languish in committee.


When a member takes over another member's bill in process, amends different language into it, and uses it as their own vehicle-only the bill number remains the same as the original bill.


A publication printed by the state which tracks the actions on all measures introduced in each house. Each house has separate histories, and they are printed in daily and weekly forms. Daily histories include all actions on that particular day, and weekly histories list all bills and actions up to that point.

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Inactive File

At the author's request, a bill is placed on the "inactive file" for one or more reasons: 1) the author does not have sufficient votes for passage; 2) the bill was vetoed by the governor; 3) the bill is defeated, reconsideration of vote is granted, and the author sends the bill to inactive until a more opportune time to bring it up for another vote.; 4) the bill has been superseded by another bill; or, 5) the author decides not to move the bill after it reaches the floor.


The voter's power to adopt law or amend the Constitution by voting.

Interim Hearing

A special hearing called to discuss specific bills or subject areas while the Legislature is not in session.

Interim Study

A request for research to be conducted on a specific bill or subject area during the legislative recess.

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Joint Resolutions

Legislative declarations relating to matters connected to the federal government, such as approval or disapproval of current or proposed federal law or policy (AJRs and SJRs).

Joint Rules

The regulations that govern the interaction between the two houses of the Legislature.


A state publication containing floor actions and votes for a single legislative day. Both houses issue a daily journal.

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Leave of Absence

A member's request to miss legislative activity due to personal or official obligations.

Legislative Advocate

An individual retained to present the views of a group, organization or individual to legislators and required by law to register with the secretary of state's office; commonly called a "lobbyist."

Legislative Counsel

The non-partisan officials who assist members in drafting legislation, provide legal services and advice to legislators, committees and the governor and provide analyses of how each proposed bill would affect current law.

Legislative Counsel's Digest

The Legislative Counsel's analysis of the effects of proposed legislation on current law and the operation of the state. The digest is printed in each bill before the actual text of the proposed bill.

Letter from the Governor

If a bill involving an appropriation is to be heard in committee before passage of the Budget Bill, it must be accompanied by a letter from the governor authorizing the bill to be set for hearing.

Line-item Veto

The governor's power to reduce or eliminate the appropriations in any bill.


See "Legislative Advocate."

Lower House

Used to refer to the Assembly.

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Majority Floor Leader

The member of the majority party selected by the speaker in the assembly and the president pro tempore in the senate to serve as a party organizer for that house.

Mock up

An unofficial copy of an amended bill; although the amendments have been adopted the official amended version is not yet back from the printer.


A request for the application of a specific legislative procedure.

Motions and Resolutions

A part of the order of business of either house where members may make requests for parliamentary actions such as rule waivers or introduction of guests visiting the chambers.

Minority Floor Leader

A minority party member elected by the minority caucus to serve as the party organizer of the house.

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Omnibus Bill

A major piece of legislation containing and providing for many items (e.g., AB 1725).

On Call

A measure has been heard but did not garner enough votes for passage, so it is placed "on call" while the author attempts to enlist additional votes. The measure can be brought up at a later time before the same body for reconsideration.

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Pass on File

A request made by an author of a bill on the floor that he or she does not wish to take up the measure, but wants to keep its place on the file.

Point of Order

A motion made to call attention to an infraction in parliamentary procedures and to request restoration of order.

Point of Personal Privilege

A motion by a member of the Legislature to address what the member considers to be a misrepresentation of his or her actions or character.

Policy Committee

Standing committees of both houses that deal with bills affecting specific policy areas. (i.e., education, transportation, judiciary, etc.).

President pro Tempore

Elected by the members of the senate, he or she is chairperson of the Rules Committee; secures efficient disposition of senate business; has the same powers as the president of the senate (the lieutenant governor) in the latter's absence.


The management of the proceedings during session; in the assembly by the speaker, speaker pro tempore, or member appointed by the speaker. In the senate proceedings are managed by the president, president pro tempore, or any senator called to chair by the president pro tempore.

Privilege of the Floor

Permission to view the proceedings from the chamber floor rather than from the gallery. Requests for such permission are made by a legislator to the presiding officer on behalf of constituents, relatives or guests.

Put Over

The cancellation of the hearing of a bill, either at the request of the author or the committee.

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Fifty percent plus one; the minimum number of members who must be present for a committee meeting or a floor session to conduct business.

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Presentation of a bill before either house by reading of the title thereof; a stage in the enactment of a measure. A bill, until passed, is either in the process of First, Second or Third Reading, no matter how many times it has actually been read.


Realigning districts in the state for purposes of electing representatives to the State Legislature and the U.S. Congress.


A motion which, when granted, gives rise to another vote which annuls or reaffirms an action previously taken. Usually reconsideration is granted to bills that fail; however, passed bills can also be reconsidered by motion of a member.


A means by which a measure adopted by the Legislature may be submitted to a popular vote of the electorate, called "invoking the referendum."


To nullify an action.


A declaration, proclamation, or call to action issued by either house or both which does not have to be approved by the governor. There are three types of resolution-joint, concurrent and House or Senate Resolutions (simple resolutions).

Roll Call

The method whereby members vote on motions before them in committee or on the floor. The assembly floor employs an electronic roll call system while the senate uses a voice method.

Rule Waiver

A request to exempt a bill from the application of either a standing rule of the house or a joint rule of the Legislature. In most cases a rule is waived so a bill can be heard after a particular deadline. A rule waiver must be approved by the Rules Committee, and then by a 2/3 vote of the house.


Term used to refer to either the standing rule of the house, the joint rules, or both.

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Second Reading

The reading of a bill on the floor after the bill has completed the committee process. the second reading status serves as a notice that these bills will be eligible for a hearing at the next meeting of the house.

Section Code

The reference number for specific portions of California Law. Each bill is coded with the section codes that it will impact.


The upper house of the California Legislature, consisting of forty members elected from districts apportioned on the basis of population, one-half of whom are elected or re-elected every two years to four-year terms. A member of the senate may not serve more than two terms.


The two-year period during which all introduced legislation must be acted upon before the next session begins.

Set in Committee

The date a bill is scheduled to be heard in committee. The hearing date must appear in the Daily File at least four days in advance of the first committee hearing and two days in advance by subsequent committees of the same house. To be "set", the notice of the bill's hearing must appear in the Daily File for at least one day. (A bill may be set for hearing by any one committee only three times.)

Simple Resolution

Expression of one house only; often to amend house rules or create a committee. Assembly simple resolutions, referred to as House Resolutions are not printed as bills, but appear in the Daily Journal on the date of introduction. Senate Resolutions are printed just like other bills.

Speaker of the Assembly

The presiding officer of the assembly, elected by the members of that body at each session.

Speaker pro Tempore

In the assembly, the substitute presiding officer, elected by the members, who takes the chair on request in the speaker's absence.

Special Order

A particular matter of business set for a special time and day as designated, irrespective of its place on the file.

Spot Bill

Used to describe bills that are introduced including only the intent or subject that the bill will later deal with.

Standing Rules

The regulations that govern the conduction of business in that legislative house.

State-mandated Local Program

A legislative act that local government is required to enact, even if the State Legislature does not provide a special funding source.


Compilation of all enacted bills, chaptered by the secretary of state in the order in which they became law, published in a book form by the state printer.

Stop the Clock

The practice of lengthening the hours of the legislative day, irrespective of the passing of the hours of the calendar day by literally stopping the clock.

Substitute Roll Call

The use of a previous favorable roll call vote as the roll call vote for a measure currently being considered. Substituting a roll call saves time by foregoing the need to call the roll again when there is unanimous consent on the measure, or if the measure's vote matches a previous roll call.Suspending the Constitution-A request to exempt a bill or act from specific procedures in order to facilitate action on the bill.

Suspense File

A holding place for bills which carry appropriations over a specified dollar amount. The suspense file is a function of the fiscal committee in both houses. Bills are generally held on the suspense file before the adoption of the Budget Bill and just before the summer recess.

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To move a measure from consideration.

Taken Off Calendar

A bill is no longer on active committee hearing schedule.

Taken Under Consideration

1) Measure has insufficient votes to pass out of committee, but is not dead and reconsideration may be granted; or 2) If a bill is pending in a subcommittee, all bills with related subject matter are referred to as "held."

Third House

A term used to refer to lobbyists and legislative advocates.

Third Reading

A floor status indicating that a bill is eligible for consideration by the floor. When a bill is read the third time it is explained to the full house by the author, discussed by the members during floor debate and voted on by a roll call vote.

Two-year Bill

A bill that did not pass out of its first policy committee before the constitutional deadline and will be carried over and acted upon when the Legislature reconvenes after the interim recess. If the bill does not pass its policy committee by the second year deadline it is considered dead.

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A legislature comprised on only one house.

Upper House

A term used to refer to the senate.

Urgency Clause

A clause added to bills that require immediate action for reasons of public need or safety. Urgency bills go into effect immediately. All urgency bills need a 2/3 vote in order to pass our of either house.

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The governor's power to reject legislation presented by the Legislature. The Legislature may override a veto by a 2/3 vote in each house.

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Withdrawn from Committee

The annulment of a referral of a bill to committee possibly due to amendments changing the committee assignment or may be a strategy to defeat or ensure passage of a measure.

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