When is the California legislature most active? What are the California legislature’s busy months? At Plural, we are constantly analyzing, manipulating, and learning from our data. Recently, our data insights team embarked on a project to find patterns in the troves of legislative data in our database. Our team then provided insight and guidance on the four most interesting or useful patterns. The following is the first in a series of four blogs digging into this work. Read the second, third, and fourth blogs in this series.
When is the California Legislature Most Active?
Those familiar with California politics know that late Summer and early Fall is when Sacramento is most hectic. During this time, action is brought out of committees and onto the chamber floors, in a mad dash before adjournment.
In 2023, legislators returned from Summer recess on August 14th. They had just fifteen working days before the deadline for reporting bills out of committee on September 1st. Labor Day (September 4th) is now followed by a two-week sprint to the finish line, before legislators adjourn on September 14th.
Unsurprisingly, our California data shows a significant increase in bill passage votes each August and September. What’s fascinating is the magnitude of difference between activity during these months and other times of the year. This trend is consistent across more than a decade of data.
Our Findings: August and September are the California Legislature’s Busiest Months, By Far
First, we looked at bill passage votes in California’s 2021-2022 biennium. In the chart below, you can see the consistency in the pattern across both the first year (2021) and the second year of the biennium (2022). You can also see the slightly elevated vote totals in the second year. Passage votes increase significantly in the final seven weeks of each session. This includes the last week before summer recess and the six weeks following recess.
Also of note in this chart is that the odd-numbered year, 2021, saw slightly less volume in most of these final seven weeks. This suggests that the end of the biennium (August-September 2022) is the busiest time of all.
2021-2022 Bill Passage Votes by Week in the California State Legislature
One biennium doesn’t determine a pattern. We wanted to look further back to see if we could find similar trends in previous bienniums. Using data spanning fifteen years, we mapped passage votes by week since the start of Governor Schwarzenegger’s second term in 2007.
We see a continuation of the trend in the 2021-2022 data, with passage votes ramping up each August and September. However, the second trend identified in the 2021-2022 data, that the final, even year of the biennium saw more activity than the first, odd year is less consistent as we look back to 2007. This pattern shows up in the bienniums beginning in 2009, 2011, 2015, and 2017, but not in the bienniums beginning in 2007 and 2013. Additionally, the 2019-2020 biennium shows a significant departure from the overall pattern, due to the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
2007-2022 Bill Passage Votes by Week in the California State Legislature
Turning Data Into Meaning
Trends found in the weekly vote analysis aren’t shocking. However, the clarity and consistency of these trends is significant. One can expect similar analyses of other states to show comparable trends, with slightly different “busy” months.
At Plural, we’re excited about the possibilities this kind of data opens up, especially in the data quality and data monitoring spaces. The norms we see could be used to build rules alerting interested parties when a deviation from those norms is detected, possibly serving as an early indicator of a break from precedent.
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