Coming Soon: “Suspense Day” and Its Impact on Proposed California Laws!

This Thursday, California’s legislative process will reach one of its most critical junctures of the year, known as “Suspense Day.” This day is pivotal yet shrouded in secrecy, as appropriations committees in both the Senate and Assembly will make quick, decisive actions on hundreds of proposed laws without public discussion.

The suspense file is a legislative tool used to evaluate bills that have significant financial implications. Specifically, any bill that would cost the state more than $50,000 from the general fund or $150,000 from any of the state’s special funds is placed in this file. The purpose is to scrutinize the financial impact on the state budget before the bills can proceed further in the legislative process.

As of Monday, the Assembly Appropriations Committee had 536 proposals in the suspense file, and the Senate Appropriations Committee had an equal number, totaling 1072 bills that will face judgment on Suspense Day. These numbers are expected to grow by Thursday morning as more bills are reviewed and added to the file.

The process of suspense hearings is unique and notably different from typical legislative sessions. On Suspense Day, the leader of each appropriations committee will quickly announce the fate of each bill, stating whether it has passed or been held on suspense. There is no testimony, no debate, and often no public explanation for why certain bills are blocked. This rapid-fire decision-making can be completed in just a few hours, but the outcomes significantly shape the legislative agenda.

Coming Soon: "Suspense Day" and Its Impact on Proposed California Laws

Suspense hearings occur twice a year, with this Thursday marking the first Suspense Day of 2024. The bills that survive this day will move forward in the legislative process: Assembly bills will head to the Assembly floor, and Senate bills will proceed to the Senate floor. This marks the halfway point in the legislative cycle. Later in the year, in August, another Suspense Day will take place for Assembly bills that have moved to the Senate and Senate bills that have moved to the Assembly.

Ahead of dispensing the suspense file, the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on AB 1999. This bill attempts to address the controversial fixed-rate utility charges approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. It is one of the many high-profile measures under scrutiny.

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Other Significant Bills on The Suspense File Include:

  • A.C.A 16 – Would Add The right to clean air, water, and environment to the state’s constitution.
  • AB 1858 – Sets new limits for active shooter drills in schools, specifically prohibiting the use of fake blood, gunfire blanks, explosions or requiring people to pose as fake victims.
  • AB 2751 – Limits an employer’s ability to contact workers during non-working hours.
  • AB 2862 – A recommendation from California’s Reparations Task Force, the bill would require Black applicants to be prioritized for state licensure for a variety of different trades.
  • AB 2943 – Attempts to crack down on retail theft without making changes to Prop 47.
  • SB 893 – Establishes California Artificial Intelligence Research Hub.
  • SB 896 – Artificial Intelligence Accountability Act.
  • SB 1414 – Would make the soliciting or purchase of a child for sex a felony.

The decisions made on Suspense Day will determine which of these and other bills will advance in the legislative process and which will be sidelined. Given the high stakes and the significant impact on state policy, Suspense Day is a critical but often under-the-radar element of California’s legislative system.

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