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California State Assembly. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Does a Legislative Resolution Prevail Over a Statute?

A statute is defined to be an enacted bill

By Chris Micheli, August 29, 2022 5:10 pm

The answer is obviously “no.” Or is it?

According to the Office of Legislative Counsel, a statute is defined to be an enacted bill, which is chaptered by the Secretary of State. On the other hand, a resolution is used to express the Legislature’s opinion. There are three types of legislative resolutions, none of which require signature of the Governor.

Because a resolution merely expresses the opinion of either or both houses of the Legislature, while statutes are laws, a resolution by its very definition cannot prevail over a statute. Or can it?

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 8(b)(1) provides: “The Legislature may make no law except by statute and may enact no statute except by bill.” Resolutions are used in three sections of Article IV. For example, a resolution can be used to provide for the selection of committees, or to remove a member of the Fish and Game Commission. Based on that, it would seem a resolution does not make a law.

Take a look at Article IV, Section 7(c)(5), which provides the following:

The Legislature shall implement this subdivision by concurrent resolution adopted by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two-thirds of the membership of each house concurring, or by statute, and in the case of a closed session held pursuant to paragraph (3), shall prescribe that reasonable notice of the closed session and the purpose of the closed session shall be provided to the public. If there is a conflict between a concurrent resolution and statute, the last adopted or enacted shall prevail.

As the last sentence of this subdivision provides, “if there is a conflict between a concurrent resolution and statute, the last adopted or enacted shall prevail.” This provision of the state Constitution actually provides, in this single instance, a unique equality between a concurrent resolution (meaning it has been adopted by both houses of the Legislature) and a statute.

Specifically, in this one case dealing with closed sessions of the Legislature, the Assembly and Senate can either adopt a concurrent resolution or a statute that implements the constitutional right to hold a closed session of the Legislature in specified circumstances. Depending on whether there is a conflict between a state statute and a concurrent resolution, this provision of the constitution provides that the last adopted (for a resolution) or enacted (for a statute) will prevail.

In other words, a statute supersedes a resolution. However, in one instance, as provided by the California Constitution, a legislative resolution could actually prevail over a state statute.

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