Questions Answered about Legislative ‘Gut and Amend’

By Justin HAGER

The CV Weekly received multiple questions this week about the legislative “gut and amend” (G&A) process and the possibility that the process could be used to introduce a statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The issue became a hot topic after leaked documents showed that a legislator had inquired about the possibility of introducing a mandate using the G&A process after the normal bill deadline passed.

G&A is a tool of the legislature that allows law makers to take pre-existing bills that have gotten “stuck” in the process but have not yet died and amend them to remove all the original language of the bills and replace them with new language. The process effectively allows legislators to introduce new legislation in circumstances where they might otherwise be prohibited due to having already reached their bill-count limit for the year or if they have new and urgent legislative needs after the regular bill introduction deadline has passed.

While some pundits have characterized the G&A process as trying to “pull a fast one,” it is an especially important tool for responding to emergencies such as natural disasters or public health  crises, which can occur at any time and demand an immediate response that cannot wait for the beginning of the next legislative calendar year. In exchange for this tool, G&A bills require additional permission and support from the leaders of the legislature because getting a bill “unstuck” and moving it through the legislative process so quickly generally requires the speaker of the Assembly, president pro tem of the Senate, appropriations committee chairs, and policy committee chairs in both chambers to all agree to take action on behalf of the bill.

Despite significant discussion of the idea in the media and on the internet, as of press time no COVID-19 vaccine mandate language had been introduced or amended into any legislative bills in Sacramento and Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (Oakland), has indicated that she will not be moving forward with the idea.