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

What is a ‘bill?’

‘Bill’ is mentioned but not defined in the California Constitution

By Chris Micheli, December 16, 2019 6:16 am

What is a “bill”? Although the term “bill” is mentioned more than two dozen times in the California Constitution, the word is actually not defined in this document. It is also not defined in the California Government Code.

A traditional definition of a bill is simply proposed legislation that is considered by a legislative body. Of course, a bill does not become law until it has been passed by the legislative branch and approved by the executive branch. Bills only apply to the Legislature. In the two dozen states that have direct democracy, including California, the people can enact statutes, but only by initiative.

California’s Legislative Counsel defines a bill as “A proposed law, introduced during a session for consideration by the Legislature, and identified numerically in order of presentation; also, a reference that may include joint and concurrent resolutions and constitutional amendments.”

Pursuant to the state constitution, the use of legislation is granted solely to the legislative branch of state government. Article IV, Section 8(b)(1) provides: “The Legislature may make no law except by statute and may enact no statute except by bill.” Hence, the lawmaking process requires the use of bills.

A few other state constitutional provisions apply to bills, including Section 8(b)(3), which states “No bill may be passed unless, by rollcall vote entered in the journal, a majority of the membership of each house concurs.” Section 10(a) requires that “(a) Each bill passed by the Legislature shall be presented to the Governor.” And, Section 12 deals with budget bills.

As set forth in Article IV, which deals with the legislative branch of state government and sets forth the general legislative place, a bill is required to create a law (a statute). And it is the document that the Legislature uses to create a statute.

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