How Do Bills Become Law?


How does a bill become a law?

When one of our legislators — senator or assembly member — seeks to introduce a bill, that legislator works with the Office of Legislative Counsel to draft the bill. If the author of the bill is a senator, the draft bill is introduced on the floor of the Senate; if the author of the bill is an assembly member, the bill is read or introduced in the Assembly. Thereafter, the bill is sent to the Office of State Printing.

A minimum of 30 days from the date of introduction, the bill is sent to the Rules Committee of the house in which the bill was introduced for assignment to the appropriate policy committee(s) for hearing. At the hearing, the author presents the bill and testimony is heard in support of and in opposition to the bill from members of the public.  The committee then votes on the bill, which yields one of three possible outcomes. The bill is either 1) passed, 2) passed as amended by the committee, or 3) defeated.

If the bill is passed (either the original or as amended), it is read for a second time in the house in which the bill was introduced and then the bill is assigned for a third reading. Prior to the third reading, an analysis of the bill is prepared. During the third reading, the author explains the bill, members discuss the bill, and a vote is taken by roll call. Bills that require appropriation or take effect immediately require 27 votes in the Senate (out of a possible total of 40 ) and 54 votes in the Assembly (out of a possible total of  80). All other bills require 21 votes in the Senate and 41 votes in the Assembly.

If the bill is passed, it is then sent to the other house, where the above process is repeated.  If the bill is amended in the second house, it must be sent back to the original house for approval. If the original house does not approve the bill, it is sent to a  two-house conference committee to negotiate a bill that is satisfactory to both houses. If a compromise is reached, the bill is sent back to both houses for a vote.

If the bill is approved by both the Senate and the Assembly, it is sent to the Governor, who may take one of three actions. The Governor may 1) sign the bill into law, 2) allow the bill to become law without signature, or 3) veto the bill. If the Governor vetoes the bill, it can still be passed by a 2/3 vote in both the Senate and Assembly.  If the bill becomes law, it generally goes into effect on January 1 of the following year.

Where can I get detailed information on a particular bill?


Go to the Office of Legislative Counsel’s official California legislative information website at and click on the “Bill Information” tab. You will see detailed information about a bill, including its author’s, amendments, history, status, and analyses.

I don’t know who my senator and assemblymember are. How can I find out?


Go to the Office of Legislative Counsel’s official California legislative information website at and click on the “Your Legislature” tab.  You will also find useful links to legislators’ web pages, legislative committees, the legislative calendar, and other related topics.

How many senators and assembly members are there in California?


There are 40 Senators and 80 Assembly persons.

Why is my senate district different than my assembly district?


California is divided into 40 Senate districts. Within each Senate district, there are two Assembly districts, for a total of 80 Assembly districts. To view a map of the Senate districts, Click Here. To view a map of the Assembly districts in PDF format, Click Here.

How often are state legislators elected? Does California have terms limits?


One-half of the Senators are elected or re-elected every 2 years for four-year terms. A Senator may serve a total of two 4-year terms. All Assembly members are elected or re-elected every two years for 2-year terms. An Assembly member may serve a total of three 2-year terms.

Bookmark the permalink.

About Beverlee McGrath

Founder of HELPANIMALSNV.ORG and HELPANIMALSCA.ORG. ALSO: Nevada Legislative Specialist & Special Projects • ASPCA • Best Friends Animal Society • Nevada Humane Society • SPCA of No. Nevada • NV Political Action for Animals • Lake Tahoe Humane Society & SPCA • Compassion Charity of America • Pet Network Humane Society • Wylie Animal Rescue Foundation • Paw Pac • Lake Tahoe Wolf Rescue • Hidden Valley Horse Rescue • Fallon Animal Welfare Group • NHS Carson City