A Voice for the People
The Speaker of the Assembly reports to three constituencies: the voters of his or her district, the people of the entire state, and the Assembly.
The Speaker presides over the California State Assembly and serves as the link between the Assembly, other major state leaders, and the federal administration in Washington. He or she is a full member of the Assembly, elected to the office of Speaker by a majority vote of that body.
As such, the Speaker shares the duties and responsibilities of all Assembly Members, including the authoring of bills that support the interests of citizens living in the Speaker’s district.
As the Assembly’s presiding officer, the Speaker is responsible for swearing in Assembly Members. He or she also appoints the Speaker pro Tempore and Assistant Speaker pro Tempore. These officers may preside over the Assembly in the Speaker’s absence. During floor sessions, the Speaker pro Tempore manages the day’s activities, recognizing members who request to speak, responding to requests for information, and ruling on members’ procedural motions.
The Speaker also appoints the Majority Floor Leader from the political party with the greatest membership. The Majority Floor Leader supervises a team of Assembly Members called “floor whips” who assist in instructing and guiding the members of the majority caucus on their votes on particular bills and motions. The Majority Floor Leader also is the primary contact for issues raised by the minority caucus.
An important responsibility of the Speaker is to appoint the chairpersons and members of Assembly committees in which bills are heard. The Speaker takes great care in choosing each committee member, factoring in political considerations as well as the candidate’s experience and training. For example, the Speaker would most likely appoint Assembly Members with legal backgrounds to the Judiciary Committee rather than to the Committee on Agriculture. The Speaker, the Speaker pro Tempore, and the Majority Floor Leader all work together to review all pending legislation as it leaves these committees to be addressed on the Assembly floor.
Assembly bills must be passed on the Assembly floor by a roll-call vote; Assembly resolutions must be passed by a voice vote, before they are sent to the Senate for further action. Any Assembly bill that is then amended in the Senate, and any Senate bill that reaches the Assembly, must also be addressed and passed on the Assembly floor before it reaches the Governor’s desk.
Every law must contain the words, “The people of the State of California do enact as follows.” This clause affirms that the citizens of California have authorized the legislation enacted.