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How to Read a Bill

Things to look for when reading a bill:

Bill number

On the cover of each bill will appear the bill number. It signifies the chamber in which the proposal was originated – AB is an Assembly Bill, SB is a Senate Bill – and the sequence number as it was introduced – Assembly Bill 2949 is the 2949th Assembly Bill introduced in the Assembly during the current 2-year legislative session.

Introduction date and author

On the cover of each bill will appear the date and at least one author (from the chamber where the bill originates). The first author that is listed is considered the primary author of the legislation. That person is responsible for maneuvering the legislation successfully through his/her chamber and on to the opposite chamber.

Statutory reference

Each bill will have a reference to the Chapter, Paragraph and Section of California Statutes that will be affected if the bill is successfully enacted.

Legislative counsel’s digest

Below the statutory reference is the legal synopsis of the measure; prepared by Legislative Counsel. It typically describes the existing law and the changes the bill would make to that law. This synopsis is not always complete and one should never rely on only the digest to determine the full scope of a legislative bill.

Vote information

Below the Digest are the vote parameters the measure must pass listed first by a majority or 2/3 floor vote, whether or not the bill must pass appropriations, whether or not it must pass a fiscal committee vote and whether or not the measure will be a state mandated local program.

Specific statutory reference

The text that immediately follows the enacting clause refers to the section of the bill and then the section of the law being amended.


After the statutory reference appears the text of the statutes as they presently exist. The deletion of language being proposed by the bill is made by striking through the text that is to be deleted.

New wording

All new language of bills will take two forms. First, if the bill is an act to amend, the new wording will be italicized. Second, if the bill is a new act, the new wording will be regular type (because the entire text is new).

Words to pay attention to

In legislation, certain words give different meanings to requirements and a single word could determine a mandated requirement verses a permissive requirement. Watch for the following words:

  • Shall
  • Must
  • Encouraged
  • Can

Bill analyses

Prior to a bill being heard either on the Assembly or Senate Floor or before a legislative committee, legislative consultants compose a summary of the purpose, content, and effect of a proposed measure or amendment. Many analyses also provide a list of those that have submitted support or oppose letters to the committee prior to the hearing.

Bill analyses, if available, can be found on ACSA’s website as links within our “Positions on Legislation” report. Analyses can also be found on the CA Legislative Information website at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xhtml.

Stay up to date on ACSA’s advocacy efforts and events with ACSA Governmental Relations.

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