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Legislative limbo: Confusion deepens

As of this writing, there are about 850 bills in legislative purgatory. The measures were approved by the Senate and Assembly, but they are being held at the clerks’ desks to avoid a veto threat from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The governor has said he would not sign any bills without a state budget. In response, the Legislature has held off sending bills to the governor. But how long can they hold onto those bills?

According to the Article 4, Sec.10 (5)(d) of the California Constitution, “(d) The Legislature may not present any bill to the Governor after November 15 of the second calendar year of the biennium of the legislative session.”

But the Constitution also states that the governor must act on bills before Sept. 30, or else they automatically become law.
Of course, the governor cannot act on what he does not have. And his reading of the constitution is that any bills he receives after Sept. 29 are automatically dead.

Privately, legal experts in the Legislature believe that lawmakers have until Nov. 15 to send bills to the governor. The Legislature did not adjourn on Sunday, it recessed. The constitution says the Legislature can remain in session until Nov. 15 – which means those bills are still alive.

 Under normal circumstances, the governor has 12 days to act on any bill that arrives on his desk. The governor is given a month to act on bills at the end of the session.

Clearly, the Constitution does not account for this no-man’s-land we now find ourselves in. Both Senate Secretary Greg Schmidt and Assembly Clerk Dotson Wilson are reviewing procedures for these uncharted waters.

“That’s being discussed (by legislative leaders) now,” Wilson told Vic Pollard, who penned a piece on the subject for the Capitol Morning Report.

A spokesman for Speaker Karen Bass said there’s concern that if the governor does not have at least 12 days to act on bills – that is, receive the bills by Sept. 18 – he could argue that he would still have at least 12 days to act on those bills.

The Bass spokesman said if the governor holds bills past October 2, the bills he eventually signs would not take effect until January of 2010 instead of January of 2009.

Article 4, Sec. 8 of the state Constitition says, “A bill passed by the Legislature on or before the date the Legislature adjourns for a joint recess to reconvene in the second calendar year of the biennium of the legislative session, and in the possession of the Governor after that date, shall go into effect on January 1 next following the enactment date of the statute.”


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