Historic Rooms

Some historic rooms that served former governors, secretaries of state, and treasurers are now preserved to show visitors what the offices looked like at the turn of the 20th century. These can be seen on the first floor of the west wing. Others, although they retain their historic look, are still used today by the leaders of the Legislature.

Both the Senate President pro Tempore's and the Speaker of the Assembly's offices are decorated with historic furniture and artwork. The architecture of the Senate and Assembly galleries, open to the public whenever the houses are in floor session, reflect an open form of government, inviting visitors to sit and observe the Legislature in action. The red of the Senate and green of the Assembly are borrowed from our centuries-old British parliamentary heritage.

View the historic rooms >>

Committee Room

Let Your Voice Stand Out

Assembly and Senate committees meet in rooms similar to the one shown. Both the Assembly and Senate have many different standing committees that focus on specific subject areas, from Agriculture to Veterans Affairs. The number of committees varies from session to session, but there are approximately 32 in the Assembly and 22 in the Senate.

With more than 6,000 bills under consideration in any single legislative session, committees are essential to the workings of the Legislature.

No single Legislator could possibly analyze every bill, or piece of legislation, that passes through the Assembly or Senate. The committee system was created to separate the total number of bills into more easily managed areas of focus. Committee hearings provide Legislators, the public, and subject-area specialists a forum for analyzing and debating bills before the bills move on to the floor of the Assembly and Senate.

Assembly and Senate committees meet in rooms similar to the one shown. Both the Assembly and Senate have many different standing committees that focus on specific subject areas, from Education to Transportation. The number of committees varies from session to session, but there are approximately 29 in the Assembly and 24 in the Senate.

In the Assembly, the Speaker assigns Assembly Members to committees and selects the chairperson for each. In the Senate, the Senate Rules Committee assumes these assignment responsibilities. These officers select committee members based on their areas of expertise to ensure that every bill gets the highest quality of attention. For example, many members of the Education Committee are Legislators who have an interest in, or knowledge of, education.

Every bill passes through one or more committees in each House depending on the subject matter. The committees of the House that originated a bill are always first to hear that bill. To complete the legislative lifecycle, the bill will pass through at least one committee in each House – an Assembly Committee and a Senate Committee.

All committee hearings are open to the public, and anyone, including you, can testify on behalf of, or against, a proposed bill. Legislators, lobbyists, subject-area experts, and private citizens are generally in attendance at any given committee hearing. The schedule for committee hearings appears in the Daily File at least four days prior to the hearing of the first committee and at least two days prior to subsequent hearings.

Once a committee concludes its deliberations, committee members then vote on the bill. If the bill passes in committee or committees, it goes to the floor of the Assembly or Senate for a second reading. If the bill does not pass, it is "held in committee." Alternatively, the author can choose to rewrite the bill, and restart the process from the beginning in the next session though not in the same session.

Senate Chamber Gallery

For the Liberty of the People

It is the duty of a Senator to guard the liberty of the Commonwealth.

This motto identifies a goal of the California State Senate and a right of the people, and conveys the significance of the legislative process – laws made in our Legislature can have an effect on the liberty guaranteed to all Californians.

Public awareness, access, and participation in the legislative process, in turn, are critical when considering laws affecting the people of California. There are many ways for Californians to influence their Legislature and, consequently, the laws that shape their lives. You can view Senate proceedings via cable television stations across California, live or on tape-delay. Better yet, experience the proceedings in person from the balcony gallery, which overlooks the Senate Chamber floor. The gallery is an architectural feature that symbolically reflects the democratic process. It enables the public to observe their elected officials in action.

While the Senate and Assembly share many traditions, they also have some important differences. The Senate is made up of only 40 Senators, each representing approximately 987,500 people. In contrast, the Assembly has twice as many members for a total of 80. The number of Senators and Assembly Members has remained constant since 1862 despite leaps in the state's population since that time. Once elected, a Senator, like an Assembly Member, can serve no more than twelve years total in the Legislature. And, unlike in the Assembly, where the electronic voting system is used, in the Senate a roll-call vote is taken by the traditional voice vote – each Senator calling out "Aye" (for yes) or "No."

The leader of the Senate is the President pro Tempore. He or she is elected by the full Senate membership and serves as Chairperson of the Senate Rules Committee. The President pro Tempore is also third in line to succeed the Governor in the event the Governor is unable to carry out his or her duties. Two other elected officers, though not actual members of the Senate, are the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Sergeant at Arms. A third non-member officer, the Chaplain, is appointed by the Senate Rules Committee.

Visitors to the Senate Chamber will immediately notice, in contrast to the Assembly, the voting method, size of chamber, and general atmosphere. The color red dominates the Chamber, a tradition borrowed from England's House of Lords.

Assembly Chamber Gallery

Government in Action

It is the duty of legislators to make just laws.

This guiding motto, displayed above the podium of the Assembly Chamber, reminds Assembly Members of their responsibility. It is a responsibility that has grown over the years. In 1849, the first Legislature passed 146 laws and 19 resolutions. Today's Legislature will propose, analyze, and debate over 6,000 bills in a single two-year session.

Assembly Members are elected to two-year terms and can serve a maximum of twelve years in the Legislature. There are a total of 80 Assembly Members. At the beginning of each two-year session, the first order of business is to elect their officers, including the Speaker of the Assembly. The Speaker's responsibilities as leader of the Assembly include appointing committee members and chairpersons, and assigning bills to committees.

Other officers elected at the beginning of each term are the Chief Clerk, Chief Sergeant at Arms, and the Chaplain.

Much of the legislative work is accomplished in committee hearings. Here, legislators analyze, consult, debate, and hear testimony from both private and public interests on every bill. If a bill successfully passes through the committee hearing process, it is forwarded to an Assembly floor session for further discussion and debate.

Since 1935, each member's desk is equipped for pushbutton voting. As members cast their votes, a green light (‘yes’ vote) or red light (‘no’ vote) appears next to each name on electronic panels located at the front of the chamber. This is unlike the Senate, where a voice roll-call vote is taken.

The public is invited to witness the Assembly's proceedings from a balcony gallery overlooking the chamber floor. This architectural feature reflects and reinforces the concepts of an open democratic system by providing access to all citizens, who are invited to observe their elected officials in action. The color green dominates the chamber, a design element borrowed from the British Parliament's House of Commons.

Visit The Museum

California State Capitol Museum
10th and L Streets
State Capitol
Room B-27
1315 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 324-0333
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Volunteer information

Weekdays 7:30 am - 6 pm
Weekends 9 am - 5 pm
Admission is free
Tours available hourly 9 am - 4 pm
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