Guest Blog Post by Matthew A. Gardner, Esq.

During the calendar year, CAI-CLAC will propose legislation, support legislation efforts by others, and oppose legislation that does not serve the Common Interest Development (CID) industry in a positive manner.  Because of this, we are often asked about the process of how a bill becomes a law. Understanding the process is important because it empowers individuals to participate in the process and have a say in the decision-making. When we know how laws are made, we can speak up, hold our elected officials accountable, and advocate for what we believe in, ultimately making a difference in our communities.

The explanation for the political process of creating legislation is referred to as watching how sausage is made because it was out of sight to the public. That phrase suggests that legislation involves unpleasant or unseemly ingredients squeezed through the political machine and magically appearing at the end as well-constructed law.  While there may be elements of truth to that description, there are often times when tracking legislation feels more like watching paint dry. The real effort in shepherding legislation often involves a lot of fits and starts that make the process of advocating or opposing legislation difficult and exhausting.

Legislative bills can start off in either the chamber of the California legislature, the Senate, or the Assembly. Sometimes, a legislator will hear ideas from constituents in their districts. Other times, legislators with certain backgrounds introduce their ideas to combat a specific problem within their area of expertise. In either case, the legislator will get assistance from the Legislative Counsel’s Office to initiate the language that will be presented as the proposed bill. The author (or sponsor) of the bill will then introduce it into their chamber for assignment.

Each chamber has a committee that decides where the bill will be heard. Depending on the subject matter of the bill, it will be assigned to a committee that covers the policies that will be impacted.  After assignment to those policy committees, there is a waiting period of 30 days before it is heard. During that waiting period, here are five important steps to expect:

  1. The bill’s language can be investigated and reviewed by legislators and their staff.
  2. Committees will also invite speakers to testify about information in the proposed bill.
  3. Some of the speakers will be advocates for groups (like CAI), some will be individual constituents, and some may be specialists in the topic covered by the bill.
  4. All of this information is compiled and added to the record of the bill as it progresses, and there may be proposed changes or amendments based on what is heard.
  5. After all of the back and forth in the original chamber, the matter comes to a vote before it heads to the other chamber for a similar journey.

Both chambers are allowed to propose amendments. Often this is where the “sausage-making” comparison comes into play. Negotiations back and forth between the chambers ensure that there is an agreement on the language in the proposed bill. Sometimes this involves a conference committee of members from both chambers deciding what language will be acceptable in final form. After the conference committee comes to an agreement, the bill returns and is voted on by both chambers in final form. Only after all negotiation, the bill will arrive on the desk for signature by the Governor.

There is a short window of time between the presentation of the bill and the opportunity for the Governor to decide what action to take:

  1. Sign it into Law.
  2. Allow it to pass into a Law without signature.
  3. Veto it. 

That 12-day window is no different from any of the other stages of negotiation, in which all of the same interested parties (on both sides) will reach out to be heard and attempt to influence the decision.

While a lot of the legislative process does happen behind the scenes and out of sight, there are still many opportunities to be heard. And ultimately, the success or failure of a bill comes down to the ability to be heard, and selecting those in the best position to present information helpful to your cause. This is the real value in a behind-the-scenes look at legislation!  

Understanding the legislative process gives us better insight into the important work that CAI-CLAC does in helping to shape, guide, and provide feedback on bills that are important to our communities. To learn more about our 2023 Legislative Session Hot Bills, click here.

 If you haven’t already done so, we urge you to take a moment to sign up for CAI-CLAC email updates to stay informed. You can also follow us on LinkedInFacebookTwitter and YouTube for real-time updates on legislative news, resources, event updates, or legislative action.

Matthew A. Gardner, Esq., is a partner at Richardson|Ober who works with community associations homeowners and HOA boards of directors to amend governing documents, resolve homeowner/member disputes, and manage assessment delinquency matters. Matthew also currently serves as the CAI-CLAC Liaison for the CAI Greater Inland Empire Chapter.