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California Senate Chambers, with galler above. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Phrases You Might Hear on the Floors of the California Legislature

Legislative Counsel’s Glossary of Terms

By Chris Micheli, October 8, 2020 8:33 am

As Capitol observers watch the Floor Sessions of the California State Assembly and State Senate, they may hear some of the following phrases. In determining what these phrases actually mean, we can consult the Legislative Counsel’s Glossary of Terms.

“Parliamentary Inquiry” – This is a phrase used by a Member of the Senate or Assembly during a legislative proceeding (i.e., in committee or on the Floor) to raise a question about a parliamentary procedure. The Member is recognized for this motion by the committee chair or the house’s presiding officer and he or she then answers the inquiry.

“Point of Order” – This is a phrase based on parliamentary procedure that is used by a Senator or Assembly Member to bring to the attention of the chamber’s presiding officer that there is an alleged violation of the house’s rules. After the Member states his or her point of order, then the presiding officer makes a ruling on the validity of the state point of order.

“Privileges of the Floor” – This is a phrase used to describe when a Member has been granted permission by the house’s presiding officer for a guest (e.g., a family member or constituent) to view the legislative proceedings from the Floor of the chamber, rather than in the house’s gallery.

“Condition of the File” – This is a phrase used by a Member to make a brief statement at the close of a Floor Session. In essence, the Member is speaking to his or her colleagues regarding why it is not appropriate for the house to adjourn. The Senate does not formally set a time limit, although Senators are generally limited to five minutes. On the other hand, pursuant to Assembly Rule 84, prior to adjourning, any Member may state a fact relating to the condition of the business of the Assembly, but is limited to two minutes and it is not debatable.

“Adjourn in Memory” – This is a phrase used to describe when a Member has been granted permission to adjourn the house in memory of an individual. The Member’s request must be made in writing and is read by the house’s presiding officer and the Member’s statement occurs prior to the adjournment of the day’s session.

“The Desk Is Clear” – This is a phrase used by the presiding officer of the Assembly or Senate that is made prior to recognizing a motion to adjourn. It essentially means that there is no further business to come before the house that day.

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