April 3, 2020
Senate Leader Says Legislature Will Not Return on April 13
Last month, in order to do its part in following state and federal health directives aimed at flattening the COVID-19 curve, the California State Legislature approved a resolution that left it in joint recess until Monday, April 13, 2020. However, the resolution provided the Legislature flexibility to reconvene before April 13, 2020, or extend the recess if necessary.
On Friday, March 27, 2020, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) confirmed that the Legislature will not be returning on April 13, 2020, effectively extending its recess beyond that target date in order to comply with health experts who say social distancing directives need to be extended in order to not overwhelm the state’s health care systems.
It is important to note that Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) has the authority to call the state’s lower house back into session on April 13, 2020, or earlier, but it is very unlikely that he will differ from Senator Atkins’ statement, and the Assembly will most likely extend its recess beyond the April 13, 2020, target date.
While there has been no indication of when the Legislature will return from recess, we know that at the very least they must return to approve the 2020–21 State Budget Act by June 15, which is a constitutional deadline that the Legislature has no authority in waiving. It is also clear that when the Legislature does return it will need to do so in a condensed way. Capitol insiders are speculating that there are likely three scenarios in which the Legislature returns:
- Return only to pass the 2020–21 State Budget Act and nothing else
- Return to approve the State Budget and COVID-19 legislation only
- Return to pass the State Budget and significantly reduce the number of bills that each legislator is allowed to pursue
- In this scenario each member would likely be asked to prioritize 3–5 bills for the year, which would significantly reduce the Legislature’s workload
Another deadline that the Legislature needs to keep in mind while amending the calendar is Monday, August 31, 2020, the last day of the session. The California Constitution states that no bill can be approved by either house on or after September 1; except for statutes calling elections, bills providing tax levies or appropriations, urgency measures, and bills passed after being vetoed by the Governor.
This means that the Legislature could technically work on bills after August 31, 2020, if they are urgency measures, bills levying taxes or appropriations, and overriding vetoes, all of which require supermajority approval by the Legislature. The constitutional deadline for any session considering these measures is November 30, 2020.