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How to Attend a Policy Committee Hearing in California

August 30, 2023

Our system of governments in the United States is based on written rules that are officially known and recognized and enforced by an authority – these are known as laws, and is the most direct way to solve issues in our communities.

States and the federal government have the ability to pass and enforce laws within their jurisdictions. In the state of California, laws start as bills that are drafted and debated in Sacramento at the State Capitol. Once a bill passes through both chambers – the State Senate and Assembly – it goes to the governor’s desk for final approval. Once the governor signs the bill, it becomes state law. If the bill does not pass both chambers or fails to get signed by the governor, the bill does not become a law. 

Policy committee hearings:

Even though we – the public – aren’t elected members of the state legislature, we can still actively partake in the process by participating in policy committee hearings to make our voices heard and ensure that new laws being considered actually benefit our communities. 

As defined by the California State Senate, “policy Committee hearings are the forums for public input, the best place for citizens to communicate their concerns about proposed legislation” (also known as bills). (cite) Committees meet on a regular basis during the year, bills are discussed, debated, and amended in Standing Committees. In Standing Committees, you can learn more about the proposed legislation as well as voice support or opposition for what’s being considered. 

To learn the ins-and-outs of this process and find out information about specific committees including “committee membership, staff, addresses, phone numbers, meeting schedules, and policy jurisdictions,” visit the Legislative Process page on the California State Legislature Website. (cite)  

Depending on the issue you’re interested in and what you’re attempting to resolve in your community, you’ll want to attend the appropriate Standing Committee for that specific issue area. For example, if your community is facing housing issues such as unjust evictions, harassment from landlords, and/or unaffordable rents, proposed legislation that could address the root causes will be debated in the Housing Standing Committees. The State Assembly has 33 Standing Committees and the Senate has 22 – click the links to learn more about each committee and their focus. 

Navigating hearings:

It can get a little overwhelming looking at the list of Standing Committees, but don’t get discouraged because your elected members office and community based organizations can point you in the right direction. 

Community based organizations will also help you prepare what to say at hearings and provide you with all the information needed to join the meeting. Some will even provide transportation to and from the capitol to attend in person because it’s critical that community voices are heard in this process so that new laws truly represent what the people want and need. If community voices weren’t present in the process, lobbyists and vested interests would undoubtedly aim to get laws passed that don’t serve the people but instead their bottom line. 

Courage California Institute has partner organizations throughout the state that can help you throughout this process. To learn more about groups in your area dedicated to issues you’re passionate about, join our email list to receive regular updates on actions you can take to address injustices in your community.