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California Legislative Advocacy: Glossary of Key Terms

This pathfinder aims to assist researchers in locating materials on the legislative process in California. Researchers will learn how to find and track proposed legislation and how to engage in effective advocacy.

A-Z List of Key Glossary Terms


The following definitions were derived from the California Legislative Council's Glossary of Legislative Terms. Please click here for a complete listing of terms.

Click on Blue Letters below to jump to that section of the alphabet:


A | B | C | D | E | FG | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

"A" Glossary Terms

A bill passed by the Legislature and enacted into law.

Approval or acceptance; usually applied to amendments, resolutions, or motions.

Proposal to change the text of a bill after it has been introduced. Amendments must be submitted to the Legislative Counsel for drafting or approval.

Author's amendments
Amendments proposed by the bill's author. Author's amendments to a bill may be adopted on the floor prior to the committee hearing on the bill with the committee chair's approval.

The amount of money made available for expenditure by a specific entity for a specific purpose, from the General Fund or other designated state fund or account.

Approved by the Governor
Signature of the Governor on a bill passed by the Legislature.

The house of the California Legislature consisting of 80 members, elected from districts determined on the basis of population. Two Assembly districts are situated within each Senate district.

Member of the Legislature who introduces a legislative measure. A coauthor is a member of either house whose name is added to a bill as a coauthor by amending the bill, usually indicating support for the proposal.

"B" Glossary Terms

Refers to a legislature consisting of two houses (see Unicameral).

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.

Bill Analysis
A document prepared by committee and/or floor analysis staff prior to hearing the bill in that committee or on the floor of the Assembly or Senate. It explains how a bill would change current law and sometimes identifies major interest groups in support or opposition.

Proposed expenditure of state moneys for the next fiscal year, presented by the Governor in January of each year for consideration by the Legislature; compiled by the Department of Finance, in conjunction with state agency and department heads.

Budget Act
The Budget Bill after it has been enacted into law.

Budget Bill
The bill setting forth the spending proposal for the next fiscal year, containing the budget submitted to the Legislature by the Governor.

Budget Year
The fiscal year addressed by a proposed budget, beginning July 1 and ending June 30.

"C" Glossary Terms

Cal-SPAN (The California Channel)
The cable television channel that televises Assembly and Senate proceedings. Webcasts are available online at

The current presiding officer, usually in the context of a committee hearing.

The Assembly or Senate location where floor sessions are held.

When a bill has been passed by the Legislature and enacted into law, the Secretary of State assigns the bill a "chapter number" such as "Chapter 123, Statutes of 1992," which is subsequently used to refer to the measure in place of the bill number.

Bound volumes of law organized by subject matter. The code sections to be added, amended, or repealed by a bill are identified in the title of the bill.

Companion Bill
An identical bill introduced in the other house. This procedure is far more common in Congress than in the California Legislature.

The approval by the house of origin of a bill as amended in the other house. If the author is unwilling to move the bill as amended by the other house, the author requests "nonconcurrence" in the bill and asks for the formation of a conference committee.

Concurrent Resolution
A measure introduced in one house that, if approved, must be sent to the other house for approval. The Governor's signature is not required. These measures usually involve the internal business of the Legislature.

Consent Calendar
File containing bills that received no dissenting votes in committee.

A person who resides within the district represented by a legislator.

Constitutional Amendment
A resolution proposing a change to the California Constitution. It may be presented by the Legislature or by initiative, and is adopted upon voter approval at a statewide election.

To assemble a meeting. Each house of the Legislature usually convenes twice a week.

"D" Glossary Terms

Daily File
Publication produced by each house for each day the house is in session. The publication provides information about bills to be considered at upcoming committee hearings and bills that are eligible for consideration during the next scheduled floor session. Pursuant to Joint Rule 62(a), any bill to be heard in committee must be noticed in the Daily File for four days, including weekend days. The Daily File also contains useful information about committee assignments and the legislative calendar.

Daily History
Produced by the Assembly and Senate respectively the day after each house has met. The History lists specific actions taken on legislation. Each measure acted upon in that house the previous day is listed in numerical order.

Daily Journal
Produced by the Assembly and Senate respectively the day after a floor session. Contains roll call votes on bills heard in policy committees and bills considered on the floor, and other official action taken by the body. Any official messages from the Governor are also included. A Member may seek approval to publish a letter in the Journal on a specific legislative matter. At the end of a legislative session, the Journals are bound.

Prepared by the Legislative Counsel, it summarizes the effect of a proposed bill on current law. It appears on the first page of the printed bill.

The area of the state represented by a legislator. Each district is determined by population and is designated by a number. There are 40 Senate districts and 80 Assembly districts.

Do Pass
Motion that, if adopted by a committee, moves a bill to the floor or to the next committee.

Do Pass As Amended
Committee motion that a bill be passed with the recommendation that the floor adopt specified amendments.

Author has decided not to pursue the passage of the bill.

"E" Glossary Terms

Enacting Clause
The following phrase at the beginning of the text of each bill: "The people of the State of California do enact as follows."

When a bill is amended, the printed form of the bill is proofread by staff to assure that the amendments are inserted properly. After being proofread, the bill is "correctly engrossed" and is thereupon deemed to be in proper form.

Whenever a bill passes both houses of the Legislature, it is ordered enrolled. In enrollment, the bill is again proofread for accuracy and then delivered to the Governor. The "enrolled bill" contains the complete text of the bill with the dates of passage certified by the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Clerk of the Assembly. A resolution, when enrolled, is filed directly with the Secretary of State.

Extraordinary Session
A special legislative session called by the Governor by proclamation to address only those issues specified in the proclamation; also referred to as a special session. Measures introduced in these sessions are numbered chronologically with a lower case "x" after the number (for example, AB 28x).

"F" Glossary Terms

File Number
The number assigned to a measure in the Assembly or Senate Daily File. The file number changes each day as bills move on or off the Daily File. File numbers are assigned to measures on second and third reading; in conference; unfinished business (a bill amended in the other house and awaiting concurrence in amended form); and Governor's appointments. Legislation is taken up on the Assembly or Senate floor in chronological order according to file number. Items considered on the floor are ordinarily referred to by file number.

Final History
The publication printed at the end of every session showing the final disposition of all measures.

First Reading
Each bill introduced must be read three times before final passage. The first reading of a bill occurs when it is introduced.

Fiscal Bill
Generally, a measure that contains an appropriation of funds or requires a state agency to incur additional expense. The Legislative Counsel's designation of whether a bill is a fiscal bill appears at the end of the Digest found in the printed bill. Fiscal bills must be heard by the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees in addition to the policy committees in each house.

Fiscal Committee
The Appropriations Committee in the Assembly and the Appropriations Committee in the Senate, to which each fiscal bill is referred upon approval by policy committee. If the fiscal committee approves a bill, it then moves to the floor.

Fiscal Deadline
The date on the legislative calendar by which all bills with fiscal effect must have been taken up in a policy committee and referred to a fiscal committee. Any fiscal bill missing the deadline is considered "dead" unless it receives a rule waiver allowing further consideration.

Fiscal Year
The 12-month period on which the state budget is planned, beginning July 1 and ending June 30 of the following year. The federal fiscal year begins October 1 and ends September 30 of the following year.

(1) The Assembly or Senate Chamber. (2) The term used to describe the location of a bill or the type of session, connoting action to be taken by the house. Matters may be said to be "on the floor."

Four-Day File Notice
As set forth in Joint Rule 62(a), the requirement that each bill in the first committee of reference be noticed in the Daily File for four days prior to the committee hearing at which it will be considered. At a second or subsequent committee of reference, a notice of only two days is required.

"H" Glossary Terms

The 3" x 5-3/4" hardbound edition of "California Legislature" published for each two-year legislative session. Contains indexed versions of the Assembly, Senate, and Joint Rules; biographies of members; and other useful information. Published by the Chief Clerk of the Assembly and Secretary of the Senate.

A committee meeting convened for the purpose of gathering information on a subject or considering specific legislative measures.

Held in Committee
Status of a bill that fails to receive sufficient affirmative votes to pass out of committee.

Adoption of amendments that delete the contents of a bill and insert provisions on a different subject (see Germaneness). May occur with or without the author's permission.

In California, refers to either the Senate or the Assembly.

"I" Glossary Terms

Inactive File
The portion of the Daily File containing legislation that is ready for floor consideration, but, for a variety of reasons, is dead or dormant. An author may move a bill to the inactive file, and move it off the inactive file at a later date. During the final weeks of the legislative session, measures may be moved there by the leadership as a method of encouraging authors to take up their bills promptly.

A legislative proposal to change statutory law or the California Constitution, submitted directly by members of the public rather than by the Legislature, and requiring voter approval at a statewide election. To qualify for a statewide ballot, a statutory initiative must receive signatures equal to 5 percent, and a constitutional amendment initiative must receive signatures equal to 8 percent, of the votes for all candidates for Governor at the last gubernatorial election.

Inquiry System
A database containing bill analyses, bill status, bill text, votes, and other useful information for bill tracking and research by legislative employees in Sacramento and district offices. The system is maintained by the Legislative Data Center, which is a part of the Office of Legislative Counsel.

The period of time between the end of a legislative year and the beginning of the next legislative year. The legislative year ends on August 31 in even-numbered years and in mid-September in odd-numbered years.

Interim Study
The assignment of the subject matter of a bill to the appropriate committee for study during the period the Legislature is not in session.

"J" Glossary Terms

Joint Committee
A committee composed of equal numbers of Assembly Members and Senators.

Joint Resolution
A resolution expressing the Legislature's opinion about a matter within the jurisdiction of the federal government, which is forwarded to Congress for its information. Requires the approval of both Assembly and Senate but does not require signature of the Governor.

Joint Session
The Assembly and Senate meeting together, usually in the Assembly Chamber. The purpose ordinarily is to receive special information such as the Governor's State of the State address.

"L" Glossary Terms

The rules adopted by formal governmental action that govern our lives in various respects.

Legislative Advocate
An individual (commonly known as a lobbyist) engaged to present to legislators the views of a group or organization. The law requires formal registration with the Secretary of State if an individual's lobbying activity exceeds 25 contacts with decision makers in a two-month period.

Legislative Analyst
The Legislative Analyst, who is a legislative appointee, and his or her staff provide thorough, nonpartisan analysis of the budget submitted by the Governor; also analyze the fiscal impact of other legislation and prepare analyses of ballot measures published in the state ballot pamphlet. Also referred to as a Lobbyist.

Legislative Counsel
The Legislative Counsel (who is appointed jointly by both houses) and his or her legal staff are responsible for, among other things, drafting all bills and amendments, preparing the Digest for each bill, providing legal opinions, and representing the Legislature in legal proceedings.

Legislative Data Center
Department of the Office of Legislative Counsel that maintains the Inquiry System, operates the database under which legislation is drafted and conveyed to the Office of State Publishing to be printed, and otherwise provides technological support to the Legislature.

Lobbyist Book
The Directory of Lobbyists, Lobbying Firms, and Lobbyist Employers published every legislative session by the Secretary of State; available to the public for $12.00 from the Legislative Bill Room at the State Capitol, or from the Secretary of State's office at Photos and addresses of lobbyists are included with a list of the clients each represents. Employers of lobbyists are also listed alphabetically.

Lower House
The Assembly.

"M" Glossary Terms

Majority Vote
A vote of more than half of the legislative body considering a measure. Constituted by 41 votes in the Assembly, and by 21 votes in the Senate.

A bill, resolution, or constitutional amendment that is considered by the Legislature.

An accurate record of the proceedings (see Daily Journal).

A formal proposal for action made by a legislator during a committee hearing or floor session.

"P" Glossary Terms

Adoption of a measure by the Assembly or the Senate.

A formal request submitted to the Legislature by an individual or group of individuals.

Press Conference
A presentation of information to a group of reporters. Press conferences are frequently held in Room 1190 of the Capitol, the Governor's press room, which is available to Members on a reservation basis (445-4571).

Principal Coauthor
A Member who is so designated on a bill or other measure, indicating that the Member is a primary supporter of the measure.

Put Over
A motion to delay action on a measure until a future date.

"Q" Glossary Terms

A simple majority of the membership of a committee or the Assembly or Senate; the minimum number of legislators needed to begin conducting official business. The absence of a quorum is grounds for immediate adjournment of a committee hearing or floor session.

Quorum Call
Transmitting the message that members are needed to establish a quorum so that proceedings may begin.

"R" Glossary Terms

Presentation of a bill before the house by reading its number, author, and title. A bill is on either first, second, or third reading until it is passed by both houses.

(1) An official pause in a committee hearing or floor session that halts the proceedings for a period of time but does not have the finality of adjournment. (2) A break of more than four days in the regular session schedule such as the "Easter recess."

A motion giving the opportunity to take another vote on a matter previously decided in a committee hearing or floor session.

The method, used by members of the public, by which a measure adopted by the Legislature may be submitted to the electorate for a vote. A referendum petition must be signed by electors equal in number to 5 percent of the votes for all candidates for Governor at the last gubernatorial election.

See Concurrent Resolution and Joint Resolution.

Roll Call
Recording the vote of each member of a committee or of the full Assembly or Senate. Committee roll calls are conducted by the committee secretary, who calls each member's name in alphabetical order with the name of the chair called last. Assembly roll calls are conducted electronically, with each Member pushing a button from his or her assigned seat. Senate roll calls are conducted by the Reading Clerk, who reads each Senator's name in alphabetical order.

Principles formally adopted to govern the operation of either or both houses. These include Standing Rules of the Assembly, Standing Rules of the Senate, and Joint Rules of the Senate and Assembly.

"S" Glossary Terms

Second Reading
Each bill introduced must be read three times before final passage. Second reading occurs after a bill has been reported to the floor from committee.

Second Reading File
The portion of the Daily File that lists measures that have been reported out of committee and are ready for consideration on the floor. Measures stay on the second reading file for one day before moving to the third reading portion of the File.

Ordinarily, a portion of the California Codes or other statutory law; alternatively, a portion of the text of a bill. The text of code sections is set forth in bills as proposed to be amended, repealed, or added.

The house of the California Legislature consisting of 40 members elected from districts apportioned on the basis of population, one-half of whom are elected or re-elected every two years for four-year terms.

The period during which the Legislature meets. The Legislature may meet in either regular or special (extraordinary) session.

Special Session
See Extraordinary Session.

The Member of the Legislature, private individual, or group who develops a measure and advocates its passage.

Spot Bill
A bill that proposes nonsubstantive amendments to a code section in a particular subject; introduced to assure that a bill will be available, subsequent to the deadline to introduce bills, for revision by amendments that are germane to the subject of the bill.

State Mandate
State legislative enactment or administrative regulation that mandates a new program or higher level of service on the part of a local government, the costs of which are required by the California Constitution to be reimbursed.

Enacted bills, which are chaptered by the Secretary of State in the order in which they become law.

A subgroup of a full committee, appointed to perform work on one or more functions of the committee.

Summary Digests
Digests of each bill enacted in a two-year session, as prepared and compiled by the Legislative Counsel. The measures are listed by chapter number, reflecting the order in which they were signed into law.

"T" Glossary Terms

Tax Levy
Any bill that imposes, repeals, or materially alters a state tax. The Legislative Counsel indicates in the title and Digest of the bill whether the bill is a tax levy.

Third House
Collective reference to lobbyists (see Legislative Advocates).

Third Reading
Each bill introduced must be read three times before final passage. Third reading occurs when the measure is about to be taken up on the floor of either house for final passage.

Third Reading Analysis
A summary of a measure that is ready for floor consideration. Describes most recent amendments and contains information regarding how Members voted on the measure when it was heard in committee. Senate floor analyses also list support or opposition by interest groups and government agencies.

Third Reading File
That portion of the Daily File listing the bills that are ready to be taken up for final passage.

The material on the first page of a bill that identifies the provisions of law affected by the bill and the subject matter of the bill.

Two-Thirds Vote
In the Assembly, 54; in the Senate, 27. Required, for example, for urgency measures and most measures making appropriations from the General Fund.

"U" Glossary Terms

Unfinished Business
That portion of the Daily File that contains measures awaiting Senate or Assembly concurrence in amendments adopted by the other house. Also contains measures vetoed by the Governor for a 60-day period after the veto.

Upper House
The Senate.

Urgency Measure
A bill affecting the public peace, health, or safety, containing an urgency clause, and requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. An urgency bill becomes effective immediately upon enactment.

Urgency Clause
Section of a bill stating that the bill will take effect immediately upon enactment. A vote on the urgency clause, requiring a two-thirds vote in each house, must precede a vote on the bill.

"V" Glossary Terms

The Governor's formal rejection of a measure passed by the Legislature. The Governor may also exercise a line item veto, whereby the amount of an appropriation is reduced or eliminated, while the rest of the bill is approved (see Blue Pencil). A veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote in each house.