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What is an ‘Appropriations Measure?’

No definition or the ‘common’ definition?

By Chris Micheli, December 27, 2019 6:08 am

What is an “appropriations measure”? Unfortunately, California law does not define this term. However, it is used frequently. 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.”

California’s Constitution Article IV, Sections 8 and 10 note “appropriations for the usual current expenses of the State.” Section 12 of Article IV mentions “appropriations for the salaries and expenses of the Legislature.” Nonetheless, the state constitution does not define the term. Appropriation is used in numerous other articles of the California Constitution and throughout many of the codes, again without definition.

The common definition of an appropriation bill, sometimes called a spending bill, is essentially any measure that authorizes or makes an expenditure of government funds. It requires adoption by the Legislature and approval by the Governor for purposes of appropriating state dollars.

In California, the main appropriations measure is the annual state budget bill. Article IV, Section 12(d) provides that the budget bill is the only measure that may contain more than one item of appropriation. In addition, appropriations from the General Fund of the State, except appropriations for the public schools and appropriations in the budget and trailer bills that make appropriations related to the budget bill, must be passed by a 2/3 majority vote of both houses of the Legislature.

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