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President Pro Tempore of the Senate. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Presiding Over the State Senate

Different senators preside over the State Senate during its Floor Sessions

By Chris Micheli, September 20, 2022 3:30 pm

Just like in the California State Assembly where several Assembly Members actually preside over the Floor Sessions, different senators preside over the State Senate during its Floor Sessions. In the Assembly, the presiding officer (aside from the Speaker) is primarily either the Speaker pro Tempore or the Assistant Speaker pro Tempore. But how about in the State Senate?

Senate Rule 7 specifies that: “The President pro Tempore shall take the Chair and call the Senate to order at the hour of the meetings of the Senate. The President pro Tempore is the Presiding Officer of the Senate.” As a result, the Senate leader is clearly the presiding officer. However, the Senate leader can designate others senators to preside.

SR 7 also provides: “The Vice Chair of the Committee on Rules shall, in the absence of the President pro Tempore, perform the duties, and have all powers and authority, of the President pro Tempore.” Hence, when the Senate leader is not presiding, the Vice Chair of the Rules Committee is next in line.

Nonetheless, there is Senate Rule 8 that describes “Presiding by Senators.” SR 8 provides that the President pro Tempore of the Senate may name a Senator to perform the duties of the Chair in the absence of the President pro Tempore. The Senator so named is vested, during that time on the floor, with all the powers of the President pro Tempore, and the Senator who performs these duties is known as the Presiding Officer. In the absence of the President pro Tempore or the Vice Chair of the Committee on Rules, any Senator may perform the duties of the Chair.

As a result, if the Senate leader or Rules Committee Vice Chair is not presiding over the Floor Session, then another senator designated to perform those duties is the presiding officer and, while presiding, he is addressed as “Mr. President” or she is addressed as “Madam President.”

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