Senate Chamber Gallery
For the Liberty of the People
SENATORIS EST CIVITATIS LIBERTATEM TUERI
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.