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What Are Continuous Appropriations in California Bills?

‘A continuous appropriation is not dependent on passage of the budget’

By Chris Micheli, December 3, 2021 1:12 pm

On occasion, readers can find bills in the California Legislature that make “continuous appropriations.” What are these types of appropriations?

Recall that California law does not define the term “appropriation,” even though we find that term in the State Constitution as well as numerous statutes. California’s Legislative Counsel defines an appropriation as “the amount of money made available for expenditure by a specific entity for a specific purpose, from the General Fund or other designated state fund or account.”

In regards to continuous appropriations, the Senate Budget Committee provides this definition: “Amount available each year under a permanent constitutional or statutory expenditure authorization. A continuous appropriation is not dependent on passage of the budget.”

Similarly, the California Department of Finance glossary of terms includes two definitions of the term: First, “an appropriation for a set amount that is available for more than one year.” Second, “constitutional or statutory expenditure authorization that is renewed each year without further legislative action. The amount available may be a specific, recurring sum each year; all or a specified portion of the proceeds of specified revenues that have been dedicated permanently to a certain purpose; or, whatever amount is designated for the purpose as determined by formula, e.g., school apportionments.

“Note: Government Code section 13340 sunsets statutory continuous appropriations on June 30 with exceptions specified in the section and other statutes. Control Section 30.00 of the annual Budget Act traditionally extends the continuous appropriations for one additional fiscal year.”

The point of a continuous appropriation is to provide a specified sum of state funds on a continuous basis without the need to go through the annual budget process. In terms of what a reader will see in a California Assembly Bill or Senate Bill, look for the following:

Bill Title

At the end of the bill’s Title, and after the Relating Clause, a reader will see language similar to the following:

and making an appropriation therefor.

Legislative Counsel’s Digest

In the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, a reader will see language similar to the following:

This bill would continuously appropriate __ of the annual proceeds of the fund to __. 

Digest Keys

Because a continuous appropriation bill obviously makes an appropriation, the Digest Key titled “appropriation” will be marked “yes.” In terms of the required vote, it depends whether the continuous appropriation is from the General Fund (in which case a 2/3 vote is required) or a Special Fund (in which case a majority vote is required). In the Digest Keys, a reader will see the following keys:

Vote: 2/3 or majority Appropriation: yes

Bill Text

Finally, in the actual text of the bill, a reader will see language such as the following (taken from a 2021 Session bill):

Beginning with the 2022–23 fiscal year, 25 percent of the annual proceeds of the fund are hereby continuously appropriated, without regard to fiscal year, in an equal percentage to each of the 58 counties in the state for the purpose of __.

Continuous appropriation bills are an important part of legislation considered by the California Legislature have to contain certain information as outlined above.

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