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Why Are There So Many Legislative Committees?

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Thirty-one in the Assembly; 22 in the Senate – and that’s only the “standing committees,” which have power to hear and pass legislation. When you add in the other committees – ones that hold informational hearings, for example – there are, in most years, more committees than California’s 120 lawmakers.

“It allows for specialization – where you have a finite number of members on a committee that focus on a finite topic,” says Sacramento State political analyst Steve Boilard. “However, I think that you can get to a point where you’ve broken down a subject into too many pieces. That leads to kind of a disconnect.”

For example, the Assembly has separate committees on Agriculture; Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials; Natural Resources; and Water, Parks and Wildlife.

“There is an incentive – a political incentive – to create a large number of committees,” Boilard says: The more committees there are, the more committee chairs – and the more lawmakers who can use their positions to raise money.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio