Follow That Bill

Note: Interactive Article! Click here to view a flowchart that you can use to follow along with this article.

Many of the services CHLA provides its members are readily apparent, such as our human trafficking prevention training, discount healthcare benefits, and our conferences and events. However, there is one less well understood, yet incredibly important, asset that we provide for our members which shapes every facet of your property’s daily operations—CHLA’s advocacy program. Under this program, CHLA is involved in supporting or opposing various laws proposed by elected members of the state legislature. Often, we urge CHLA members to become involved at various stages in the legislative process to help amplify our position to legislators.

You may wonder why we ask for your involvement at certain times—and that’s understandable, because for many outside observers, the legislative process can seem overly complex and opaque. In fact, while there are a number of steps for any bill to become law, the process itself is fairly straightforward. Understanding how it works can help our members understand when it is most helpful and effective for them to make their voices heard.
A proposed new law, or bill, can be introduced in either the Assembly or a Senate by one or more members of the chamber. Often, bills are the result of a suggestion by an industry association, a union, or a citizen’s group to address an issue of concern to them and introduced by a legislator who shares their concerns.

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Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned a number in sequence for that legislative session, preceded by “AB” if introduced in the Assembly, or “SB” if introduced in the Senate. While many bills have names or even clever acronyms, the number is how the bill will be formally identified and how it can be tracked throughout the legislative process.

The first step for any bill is the Rules Committee in the chamber where it was introduced. That committee determines which of the several policy committees will be involved in debating and revising the original bill, based on the policy committee’s focus.

The policy committee will consider the bill and may hold hearings and listen to presentations by interested individuals who are either in favor of or oppose the bill. This is one of the most important times to attempt to influence the language of the proposed law or attempt to persuade the committee to reject the bill. If a bill involves government spending or revenue, it also will be heard by the Appropriations Committee, which will consider the fiscal effects of the measure.

If the bill passes the policy committee (and the Appropriations Committee, if needed), it then goes to the floor of that chamber for a vote, possibly with a debate on the floor. Some of the proposed amendments may change the nature of the bill in a way that changes our position on it, and so it may be crucial at this stage for our members to once again speak out, either for or against the amendment.

Once all the amendments have been considered and either approved or rejected, the entire bill is voted on by the full Assembly or Senate. If it passes (usually with a simple majority), it is sent to the other chamber for consideration, repeating the entire process of committee hearings, amendments and a floor vote.

If the second chamber approves the bill as received, without any amendments, it will then be sent to the governor for signature or veto. If the second chamber has made changes, then it goes back to the house of origin for a “Concurrence” vote, where the original chamber will vote on whether to approve the changes made in the other house. If the house of origin refuses to concur in the amendments made by the other house, then a special committee known as “conference committee,” made up of members of both chambers, will gather in an attempt to align the language between the two versions. If they can do so, the bill goes back to each chamber for an up-or-down vote, and if it passes, goes to the governor.

If the governor signs the bill or allows the signature period to lapse without signing the bill, it becomes law. If the governor vetoes the bill, it is sent back to the legislature, which can vote to override the veto with a 2/3 vote in each chamber. Otherwise, the bill does not become law. The Governor’s office is the last opportunity for interested parties to speak out for, or against, the bill in order to persuade the governor to sign or veto the measure, although if a bill remains controversial enough at this point that the governor is undecided, it will take a great deal of effort to overcome the opposing side.

So, at this point, you may wonder—what role can you play in shaping California legislation? Well, as noted above, CHLA often calls on hotels to voice their support or opposition to good or bad bills, respectively. These calls to action can appear at nearly any point in the legislative process and are sent out when conditions are best suited to moving the needle in the right direction.

In addition to participating in our calls to action, CHLA invites hoteliers from across the state to join our Legislative Action Summit every March. This summit draws veteran advocates and new hoteliers alike and provides hoteliers with the inside scoop on legislation, as well as the opportunity to engage directly with legislators and demonstrate the unity within our industry.

To learn more about the 2023 Legislative Action Summit, click here.


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