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California’s Limits on Bill Introductions

Over 100,000 bills are introduced annually in state legislatures in the United States

By Chris Micheli, January 17, 2022 11:54 am

About a quarter of this country’s legislatures, including California, limit the number of bill introductions by their elected officials. According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), over 100,000 bills are introduced annually in state legislatures in the United States. California accounts for about 2,500 of those bills.

Why are elected legislators limited in the number of bill introductions in a handful of states? According to NCSL, “Supporters believe introduction limits help reduce the number of bills entering the legislative process and allow more time to process substantive legislation. Others disagree and say these limits restrict members’ rights to propose bills and carry out their legislative responsibilities.”

One of the first state legislatures to limit bill introductions was North Dakota, which imposed their bill limits in the 1940s. Thirty years later, Colorado and Indiana imposed bill limits, and Florida, Nevada, and Tennessee imposed limits during the 1980s. Limits started in Arizona, California, Louisiana, and Wyoming in the 1990s.

Of interest is that some state legislatures have decided that bill introduction limits do not work for them. For example, Hawaii, Michigan, New Jersey, and Washington tried using bill limits, but later eliminated the limits.

The California Legislature has adopted the following limits in their two houses:

Assembly – Limitation on the Introduction of Bills

Rule 49. (a) A Member may introduce not more than 50 bills in the regular session. As used in this rule, “bill” includes a constitutional amendment, but does not include a concurrent or joint resolution.

(b) This rule may be suspended with respect to a particular bill by approval of the Committee on Rules.

Senate – Bill Introduction Limitation

Rule 22.5.(a) A Member of the Senate may introduce or subsequently author not more than 40 bills in the regular session.

(b) This rule may be suspended with respect to a particular bill by approval of the Committee on Rules.

(c) This rule does not apply to a constitutional amendment, any type of resolution, or a bill introduced by a committee.

In almost all states, the bill limit rules are set by internal rules of the legislative houses. However, in Louisiana, the state constitution establishes the restriction. The following are some of the existing bill limits in other state legislatures:

Arizona – 7

Colorado – 5

Florida – 6

Indiana – 10

Louisiana – 5

Montana – 7

North Carolina – 15

North Dakota – 15

Oklahoma – 8

Tennessee – 15

Virginia – 15

Wyoming – 5

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