What’s the difference between a resolution and a bill?

Resolutions are essentially meaningless

Dateline: 3/11/08

By Debbie Schwarzer
Co-chair Legal Team and Legislative Chair of HSC

Someone has asked the question, “What’s the difference between a resolution and a bill?”

It’s easy. Resolutions are essentially meaningless. They allow the legislature to recognize people, events, groups, issues without actually making law. We pass a resolution declaring that next Tuesday is Butterfly Day. We pass a resolution to recognize the contribution of worms to the health of California soil. We pass a resolution honoring the sacrifices of armed service members in this or that conflict (I made all those up). We don’t make any laws protecting butterflies, or worms, or providing services to the soldiers, by passing a resolution; it’s just a feel-good measure.

They don’t have the force of law. If passed, they certainly tell the public (and the other members of the legislature) which way the wind is blowing (although, since it’s quite possible that a lot of members might be absent when the vote is taken, or don’t pay a whole lot of attention, you can’t rely on what the roll call says).

Bills are how law is made. They have to be written and sponsored by someone, and they then have to pass both houses after full debate and public hearing before they can be sent to the governor for his signature (and governors often veto bills). This resolution isn’t a bill. It doesn’t mean that there will be a bill. It doesn’t signal what any future bill would look like. All it does is help us get a sense of which legislators are friends of homeschooling, and which aren’t, and it has great value in that. We especially hope that those of you who vote Democrat or live in districts with Democtratic Assemblymembers will light up your members’ fax machines and phones, since those are the folks whose position on homeschooling we do not currently know, and whose support will be crucial, if legislation is inevitable, in passing the least restrictive bill possible.

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