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California State Assembly. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Rescinding an Action in the California Legislature

What is the purpose of rescinding or expunging motions?

By Chris Micheli, October 1, 2023 3:00 pm

On occasion, you may hear a California legislator on the Assembly Floor or Senate Floor making a motion to “rescind an action.” That may or may not be followed by a motion to “expunge the vote.” What is the purpose of either of these motions?

The word “rescind” is defined as canceling, revoking, or repealing an action or motion. Senate Rule 43.5, which is titled “Rescinding,” provides that, after a bill has been passed or defeated by the State Senate, the bill may not be rescinded without the concurrence of 27 Members. As a result, SR 43.5 allows a bill to be rescinded, whether it successfully passed off the Senate Floor or it failed passage on the Floor, so long as 2/3 of the senators on the Floor agree to do so.

Rescinding on the Floors of the Assembly or Senate most often occurs when a bill has passed either house, but needs to return to that house for further action. For example, you may hear the Majority Floor Leader stand and move to “rescind the action by which AB/SB __ was passed and return the bill to the Third Reading File for further action.”

Assembly Rule 99, which is titled “Motion to Rescind Action or Expunge,” is more extensive than its Senate counterpart. AR 99 provides that, “previous to the approval of the [Assembly Daily] Journal by the Assembly, any action may be rescinded and its record ordered expunged by the affirmative recorded vote sufficient to take that action originally, except that an action may not be rescinded and the record expunged by a vote less than an affirmative recorded vote of 41 or more Members.” As a result, if a bill required a simple majority vote for passage off the Assembly Floor, then the same simple majority vote is required to rescind the action by which that bill passed the Assembly.

AR 99 additionally provides that “a motion to rescind the action and expunge the record may not be made twice on the same proposition. A motion to rescind is not in order on any matter upon which a vote to reconsider has previously been taken in the Assembly.” As a result of these provisions, there is just one motion to rescind and expunge the record for a measure. In other words, there cannot be multiple rescissions of a bill’s passage or defeat – just one chance if afforded.

Finally, AR 99 specified that, “whenever any action of the Assembly is rescinded and its record ordered expunged, the record of the action expunged may not appear in any form whatsoever, except that the record of the proceedings on the motion to rescind and expunge shall appear in the [Assembly Daily] Journal as and when printed.” As a result of this provision, the original vote to pass or defeat the measure is not set forth in the Daily Journal. Instead, just the motion to rescind and expunge the record is set forth in the Daily Journal.

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