Legislative assembly

Election of officers to the California Legislative Assembly

In the California Legislative Assembly, the officers of each house are elected by the members of the Assembly or the Senate for their respective offices. The rules for these elections are found in the State Constitution, the Code of Government, and the rules of the respective chambers.

State Constitution

Article IV of the California Constitution contains the constitutional provisions relating to the legislative branch of state government. Article 7 (a) states that “each chamber chooses its officers”. Nothing more is provided regarding the choice of leaders, but Article 7(c)(4) specifies that the caucuses of political parties may meet behind closed doors.

Government Code

The California Government Code provides for the election of officers and a majority vote is required for those elected to these offices. First, Article 9020 of the Government Code requires that the legislature convene its session on the first Monday in December and “organize immediately”. This includes the election of officers. The Senate is described in section 9022 and the Assembly in section 9023.

Section 9170 of the Government Code states that “Senate officers and employees are:

(a) A chairman. (The Lieutenant Governor)

(b) A president pro tempore, a secretary, a sergeant-at-arms, a minute clerk and a chaplain.

c) Other officials and employees deemed necessary by the Senate and provided for by resolution of the Senate.

The officers and employees of subdivision (b) are elected by a majority vote of the duly elected and qualified members of the Senate. As a result, 21 votes (assuming all 40 senators are seated) are needed to elect Senate officers.

Article 9171 of the Government Code states that the “officers and employees of the Assembly are:

(a) A President, President Pro Tempore, Majority Floor Leader, Minority Floor Leader, Chief Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms, Minute Clerk and Chaplain.

(b) Other officers and employees deemed necessary by the Assembly and provided for by resolution of the Assembly.

Officers and employees of Subdivision (a), except Majority and Minority Officers and the Clerk of Minutes, shall be elected by a majority vote of the duly elected and qualified members of the ‘Assembly. Accordingly, 41 votes (assuming all 80 members of the Assembly are seated) are required to elect the office of the Assembly.

Finally, article 9173 of the Governmental Code specifies that “any official or employee appointed or elected by the Senate or the Assembly may at any time be removed from office in the same manner as provided for his election or appointment”. In other words, the same majority vote is required to impeach an officer of the Senate or the Assembly.

State Senate Rules

In January 2021, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 3 (Atkins) relating to the Rules of the Senate for the 2021-2022 regular session. SR 10.5 concerns “Elected and Appointed Officers”. It repeats the constitutional and statutory provisions above by providing: “On the first day of each session, the president pro tempore, the members of the commission of regulations, the secretary of the Senate and the sergeant-at-arms are elected by a majority of vote of the duly elected and qualified members of the Senate and shall serve until their successors are elected and qualified”.

Accordingly, on December 7, 2020, the officers of the Senate were elected. The body passed Senate Resolution 2 (Hertzberg) relating to the election of officers. SR 2 provides in its entirety: “Resolved by the California State Senate, that Senator Toni G. Atkins be, and is hereby elected, President pro tempore of the Senate; that Erika Contreras Valles be, and is hereby elected Secretary of the Senate; and that Katrina Rodriguez be and is hereby elected Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate.

State Assembly Rules

In December 2020, the Assembly passed House Resolution 1 (Cooley) relating to the Standing Orders of the Assembly for the 2021-22 regular session. AR1(a) is for “General Officers of the Assembly”. It provides: 1. (a) The General Officers of the Assembly are:

(1) Speaker

(2) Timed pro speaker

Speaker Assistant pro Tempore

Majority Leader

Republican leader

(3) Chief Registrar

Sergeant-at-Arms

Chaplain

(b) With the exception of the officers listed in subsection (2) of subdivision (a), each officer listed in subdivision (a) shall be elected by a majority vote of the duly elected and qualified members. Accordingly, the President, Chief Clerk, Sergeant-at-Arms and Chaplain are elected by majority vote.

The election of the president at the convocation of a new session on the first Monday of December of the even-numbered year is the first order of the day. This happened on December 7, 2020. Subsequently, House Resolution 2 (Rendon) was passed regarding the election of officers of the Assembly for the 2021-2022 regular session. HR 2 provides in its entirety: “Resolved by the California State Assembly, that the following appointees serve as officers of the Assembly for the 2021-2022 regular session:

Sue Parker, Chief Registrar

Alisa Buckley, Master Sergeant-at-Arms

Imam Mohammad Yasir Khan, chaplain

As described above, the officers of both houses of the California Legislative Assembly are elected by a majority of their peers and sit at the whim of that majority, which is currently 21 members of the Senate and in fact 40 in the Assembly in May 2022 as there are two vacancies. As soon as one or more of these vacancies are filled in the Assembly, then 41 members of the Assembly are required to elect an officer of that chamber.