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The Legislative Bill Room, California State Capitol. (Photo: ca.gov)

Why Do California Bills Have Certain Provisions?

Why does an urgency bill include a brief statement following the urgency clause?

By Chris Micheli, September 11, 2022 3:09 pm

Why do bills in the California Legislature contain certain provisions? I am sure some readers have asked that question at least once! Or so I tell myself. Here are some examples of what I mean with an explanation:

Why does an urgency bill include a brief statement following the urgency clause?

Because California’s Constitution in Article IV, Section 8(d) provides, in part, the following: “Urgency statutes are those necessary for immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety. A statement of facts constituting the necessity shall be set forth in one section of the bill.” Therefore, an urgency bill must include not only the urgency clause, but also an explanation to justify the urgency of the bill’s provisions.

Why does a bill include only related provisions, rather than a hodgepodge of unrelated provisions like a bill in Congress?

Because Article IV, Section 9 provides, in part, the following: “A statute shall embrace but one subject, which shall be expressed in its title. If a statute embraces a subject not expressed in its title, only the part not expressed is void.” Therefore, California bills are bound by the “single subject rule,” meaning that a bill cannot include unrelated provisions to that one main subject.

Why does a bill include the entire code section being amended, even if just a single word is changed?

Because Article IV, Section 9 provides, in part, the following: “A section of a statute may not be amended unless the section is re-enacted as amended.” Therefore, California bills are bound by the “reenactment rule,” meaning that an entire code section that is amended must be reenacted in its entirety by the bill, even if only a single word is changed.

Why does a bill include a section that explains it is a special statute and not a general statute?

Because Article IV, Section 16 provides: “All laws of a general nature have uniform operation. A local or special statute is invalid in any case if a general statute can be made applicable.” Therefore, if a special statute is required for certain, unique reasons, the bill states that it is a “special statute,” along with a brief explanation why a general statute cannot apply in this circumstance.

So, the answer to the initial question is, “Because the California Constitution requires it!”

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