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Drafting Legislative Counsel Digests

The Legislative Counsel’s Digest summarizes the effects of the proposed bill on current law

By Chris Micheli, January 26, 2023 9:18 am

The purpose of the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, according to the Office of Legislative Counsel, is to summarize the effect of the proposed bill on current law. It is obviously prepared by the Office of Legislative Counsel and provides a brief summary of the changes the proposed bill would make to current law. The Digest is found in the beginning of each bill.

The following is an example from a recently introduced bill in the 2023 Legislative Session:


SB 71, as introduced, Umberg. Jurisdiction: small claims and limited civil case.

Existing law provides that the small claims court has jurisdiction over actions seeking certain forms of relief, including money damages in specified amounts and claims brought by natural persons, not exceeding $10,000, except as specified. Existing law requires an action or special proceeding to be treated as a limited civil case if certain conditions exist, including, among others, that the amount in controversy does not exceed $25,000.

This bill would increase the small claims court jurisdiction over actions brought by a natural person, if the amount does not exceed $25,000, except as specified, and would also increase the amount in controversy permitted in other specified actions within the jurisdiction of the small claims court. The bill would increase the limit on the amount in controversy for an action or special proceeding to be treated as a limited civil case to $100,000. The bill would also make technical, nonsubstantive changes to these provisions and make conforming changes.


Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: yes   Local Program: no

As a reader can see, the first item in the Digest is the subject line, which includes the bill number, whether it is the introduced or an amended version, the lead author’s name, and the subject of the bill.

Second is the summary of existing law (which always begins: “Existing law provides….”), following in the next paragraph with the summary of what the bill does to current law (which always begins: “This bill would…”).

Third are the four Digest Keys, which set forth the vote requirements, whether the bill contains an appropriation, whether the bill is to be rereferred to the fiscal committee, and whether the bill imposes a state-mandated local program.

In terms of the explanation of current law and the bill’s proposed changes to existing law, all of those provisions are written by the drafting attorney at the Office of Legislative Counsel who handles the bill. And, these two summaries (of existing law and what the bill proposes to do) are based upon current statutes and the bill language.

In other words, the Legislative Counsel drafting attorney basically has the citations, if you will, to existing law and the bill’s provisions to justify each of the statements found in the Digest to ensure its accuracy.

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