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Adjournment in the California Legislature

Many observers mistakenly called it ‘adjournment sine die’

When the California Legislature adjourned its 2020 Session in the early morning hours of September 1, many observers mistakenly called it “adjournment sine die.” There is a distinction between adjournment and adjournment sine die.

According to the Legislative Counsel’s Glossary of Terms, adjournment means the termination of a meeting, occurring at the close of each legislative day upon the completion of business, which is accomplished by a successful motion to end the session, with the hour and day of the next meeting being set prior to adjournment.

In order for the Assembly and Senate to adjourn, a motion to adjourn must be made. The motion to adjourn is not debatable and may not be amended. It is always in order, except when another Member has the floor, when voting is taking place, or during a call of the Assembly. Pursuant to Assembly Rule 84, the details of the adjournment motion are entered in the Assembly Daily Journal. A motion to adjourn requires a majority vote.

In addition, under Assembly Rule 85, a motion to recess to a time certain is treated the same as a motion to adjourn, except that the motion is debatable and can be amended as to the time and duration.

This is distinguished from adjournment sine die which, in Latin, means literally to adjourn without days. According to the Legislative Counsel’s Glossary of Terms, the phrase means that there are no more days left. It is used to describe the final termination of the two-year legislative session.

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 3(a) of the California Constitution, “each session of the Legislature shall adjourn sine die by operation of the Constitution at midnight on November 30 of the following even-numbered year.” Both regular and special sessions of the Legislature adjourn sine die at midnight on November 30 of each even-numbered year.

So, when the Legislature terminated its Session on September 1, both the Assembly and Senate adjourned until they reconvene on Monday, December 7 at 12 noon.

On the other hand, the 2019-20 Legislative Session will adjourn sine die on November 30.

Chris Micheli is a lobbyist with Aprea & Micheli, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

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