The Afternoon News with Kitty O'Neal

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Suspense Day at the Capitol with NAWBO's Legislative Advisor Lori Kammerer

Listen to the KFBK on-air story with Legislative Advisor for the National Association of Women Business Owners, Sacramento Chapter Lori Kammerer as she breaks down May 16's "Suspense Day" at the CA Capitol. Short version.

Listen to Lori Kammerer's full podcast detailing the CA Capitol's Suspense Day.

CA Senate and Assembly Suspense File Info

May 17, 2024

Both Appropriations Committees in the California Legislature utilize a process called the “Suspense File.”

Any bill in the Legislature that has virtually any associated fiscal costs to the state are called “fiscal” bills. All fiscal bills will be referred to either the Senate or Assembly Appropriations Committee if the bill first passes the “policy” committee with jurisdiction over the subject matter of the measure.

Nearly all bills introduced in the Legislature are fiscal bills, which are bills that appropriate money, or may either require the state to spend money or result in a loss of revenue to the state.

Both Committees on Appropriations have a suspense file, which is intended to be used in a way to manage the fiscal implications of bills that represent a fiscal impact to the state of more than a specified amount. This amount varies from time to time, but is usually fixed at a dollar amount ranging from $50,000 to a $150,00 threshold, but the Senate and the Assembly can have different thresholds for Suspense.

Bills that are referred to “Suspense” are held in the respective Appropriations Committee until the “fiscal committee deadline” approaches. Bills that do not pass out of the Appropriations Committees by that deadline cannot be sent to the Floor for a vote by the full Senate or Assembly and are essentially dead for the year.

The fate of bills on the Suspense File is decided by the Chair and Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committees, with significant input by both the majority and minority legislative leadership and staff in each house, as well as from the authors of the bills and interested parties. These meetings and negotiations are conducted privately.

The Suspense File process is a good faith effort by the Legislature to balance the overall fiscal and policy interests of the Legislature, the state budget. For decades, the Suspense File process has also given the Legislature a convenient mechanism by which to kill controversial bills without fanfare.

On the day of the final hearing of the Appropriations Committees, the fate of all the many bills on the Suspense File is announced. The bills are passed as is, amended and then passed, or held under submission. Most of the legislators are unsure what will happen to their bills on that day. There is no hearing or discussion beforehand.

In the Assembly, the Chair of Appropriations announces the fate of all bills, whether they pass or are held, but in the Senate, only the bills that are passed, or amended and passed as amended are announced. The Chair of Senate Appropriations is silent concerning the bills that are to he held in Committee, so if one doesn’t hear his or her bill announced, it will be held in committee.

This Suspense File process takes place in May, when each house of the Legislature deals with bills pending in their own house, and is repeated again in August, when each Appropriations Committee is considering bills that have come over from the other house

This year, as of a couple of days ago, about 350 bills in the state Senate and about 650 in the Assembly were set for review in the Suspense File. Yesterday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee held 233 bills under submission and the Senate Appropriations Committee held 87 bills.

This year’s enormous state budget deficit apparently had a significant impact on what took place, as the leadership in both the Senate and the Assembly seemed to be attempting to keep costs down in efforts to balance the policy and fiscal interests of legislators and their constituents with the realities of a significant state budget shortfall, which is estimated to be $56 billion over the next two fiscal years.

Some of the bills held on Suspense this year include SB 1012 (Wiener), which would have allowed patients to use psychedelic drugs like LSD under medical supervision, and AB 2751 (Haney) [from SF] that would have prohibited employers from contacting employees outside of scheduled work hours.

Also held was AB 2808 (Wicks), that would have limited Ticketmaster from exclusive rights to sell tickets, and AB 2200 (Kalra), that would create the California Guaranteed Health Care for All program.

Nevertheless, some measures survived and will move to the Floor for a vote by the full membership of the house from which they originated.

The Assembly passed a series of bills designed to deal with the rise of retail theft.

The Senate passed SB 1053 (Blakespear) to ban the sale of reusable plastic bags at retail stores, along with SB 1446 (Smallwood-Cuevas), that limits the use of self-service checkout stations at retail outlets.

Other bills of interest that will made it out of the suspense file include: Senate Bill 1043 (Grove) to expand reporting requirements for behavioral treatment centers for teens, specifically their use of “seclusion rooms” and restraints; SB 1214 (Nguyen) to establish a commission to help California commemorate the 250th anniversary of the United States’ founding in 2026; SB 1413 (Niello) to set standard time year-round, doing away with daylight saving time permanently; Assembly Bill 2999 (Schiavo) to require school districts, county offices of education and charter schools to develop more “intentional” homework guidelines.

The bills that survived Thursday’s hearings face another deadline next Friday, May 28th and that is to get out of their House of Origin where they were introduced. In total, 918 bills are before the two houses for action before that deadline. Roughly 430 of 2,160 bills introduced have passed their first house.

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