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A sea of empty desks inside the California State Assembly
California State Assembly. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

It’s Not Just the ‘Spot Bill’ Deadline

‘Placeholder bill’ would be more appropriate

By Chris Micheli, March 10, 2023 10:03 am

In another one of my “legislative geek” moments, I would like to suggest that we change our terminology to “placeholder bill.” For example, everyone is aware of the upcoming “spot bill deadlines” in the Assembly (amendments in Legislative Counsel form due March 13 by 5pm) and Senate (amendments in Legislative Counsel form due March 22 by 3pm).

However, these deadlines apply to more than just spot bills. They also apply to bills that contain only legislative intent statements, and even a bill introduced that only contains legislative findings and declarations. All three of these types of introduced bills are meant to be placeholder bills, awaiting substantive language to be added so that the respective Rules Committees will refer those bills to a policy committee for their first hearing.

I realize that many individuals working in and around the California Legislature simply refer to all of these placeholder measures as “spot bills,” but placeholder bill would be more appropriate because there are three separate and distinct types of placeholder bills. They are:

  • Spot bills make a technical or nonsubstantive change to an existing statute in one of the 29 Codes.
  • Intent bills contain, in most instances, a single statement of legislative intent to do something generally (e.g., the Legislature intends to enact a bill related to transportation) or specifically (e.g., the Legislature intends to enact a bill to create a youth hiring tax credit).
  • Legislative findings and declarations bills that contain only one or more of these statements (and not any statutory language).

So, rather than lumping all three of these different types of introduced bills that lack substantive statutory language under the same “spot bill” term, let’s instead try and lump them all under the “placeholder bill” term.

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