Home>Articles>General Versus Special Statutes

California State Capitol. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)
Articles Governor Highlight Legislature

General Versus Special Statutes

Being aware of the general rules can be helpful

By Chris Micheli, November 18, 2019 6:08 am

Most Capitol observers do not often come across bills that delineate between general or special statutes. What is a general statute versus a special statute?

A general statute is essentially a law that pertains uniformly to an entire community or all persons generally. On the other hand, a special statute is essentially a law that applies to a particular person, place, or interest. California law provides for both types of statutes.

California’s Constitution in Article IV, Section 16, provides “(a) All laws of a general nature have uniform operation. (b) A local or special statute is invalid in any case if a general statute can be made applicable.” As a result, general statutes are the main type and they apply uniformly by their language; however, special statutes can be pursued so long as a general statute would not apply in the particular circumstance.

Working with the bill author, the Office of Legislative Counsel will make a determination whether a special statute will pass constitutional muster and, if so, how the bill must be drafted. The initial determination is whether the proposed legislation can be addressed by a bill of general application. If not, then a special law would be required.

With a special statute bill, a reader may see the following language in the measure:

“The Legislature finds and declares that a special law is necessary and that a general law cannot be made applicable within the meaning of Section 16 of Article IV of the California Constitution because of ___.”

Thereafter, the bill must contain an explanation of the special nature of the bill and why a bill of general application will not work in these particular circumstances. An example of this explanatory language could be (taken from a prior bill):

“The unique island location of the City of Coronado and its proximity to large military installations requires a special law. In addition, the complexities of amending a general plan and a local coastal plan for the City of Coronado will take significantly longer than six months. As a result, a general law cannot be made applicable.”

Although special statutes are not common, being aware of the general rules can be helpful when you need such a bill.

Chris Micheli

Chris Micheli is a lobbyist with Aprea & Micheli, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

Latest posts by Chris Micheli (see all)

Spread the news:
RELATED ARTICLES
Filter by
Post Page
Highlight Articles Governor Legislature Congress Legal
Sort by

Effective Versus Operative Dates of Statutes

The effective dates of statutes is found in the California Constitution
November 13, 2019 6:04 am

18

CaliforniaConstitution Versus Federal Constitution

The powers of direct democracy reserved to the people
February 15, 2019 2:00 am

10

Senator John Moorlach (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

CA State Auditor Finds State Agencies Overpaying Millions for Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Agencies could have saved the State more than $20 million in 2017-18
December 9, 2019 9:38 am

8

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *