The Secret Stop on Legislation's Path

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Successful legislation follows a fairly typical path in California, from one house to the other and then on to the Governor. But as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, bills also make another crucial stop.

In the depths of the Capitol building, there’s an office. The location is not well known and access limited. Inside sit people whose jobs include reading every single piece of Assembly legislation out loud.

It’s the Assembly Engrossing and Enrolling Office. Every time an Assembly bill is amended or approved it stops here to be proof read and updated. Linda Morgan and Michael Callahan are part of the staff that reads all those bills, even the really long ones.

So how long did it take for the staff to read the budget?

“Long time,” joked Morgan.

“I believe last time we got through it in about three and a half days,” Callahan said.

I wasn’t allowed in the office; the clerks came upstairs to me. But why all the secrecy surrounding the room? Well, Chief Clerk Dotson Wilson said it’s simple. The room holds a lot of legislation, and no one wants any of it to be moved, removed, or altered.

“Back in the 1930’s there were a couple of reported incidents, where, we’ll just say, there was undue influence that was placed on some of the staff that worked in the office,” Dotson said.

The process has changed a bit since then, clerks no longer work alone. But clerks in the Assembly and on the Senate side are always aware that even a tiny mistake can result in embarrassment, or worse, a law that doesn’t represent the legislature’s intention. And so they read, day in and day out, silently and out loud. Every. Single. Bill.




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