What is California Law?

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  • Written By: Bethney Foster
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 February 2020
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California law is made up of laws, acts, and statutes that govern the state of California in the United States. California law comes from the state’s constitution, legislation enacted by the California Legislature, the California Code of Regulations, and case law. In addition to California law, the state is also subject to the federal laws of the United States.

The California Constitution is the primary source of California law. The constitution, beginning with the preamble, is organized into 35 articles. The 35 articles include a Declaration of Rights and establish California law, which regulates aspects of society ranging from voting to medical research.

California’s original state Constitution was adopted in 1849. The current constitution, one of the longest constitutions in the world, was adopted in 1879. The state’s voters can change the constitution with a ballot initiative. The constitution can be changed by an amendment or a revision, with different processes necessary depending on the type of change proposed.

California law enacted by the state Legislature begins as a bill. The bill is first read and passed in its originating house and then goes to the other house for passage. In general, the bill must receive 21 votes in the state Senate and 41 votes in the state Assembly to move forward. The vote necessary to pass a bill may vary depending on whether the new law would require immediate appropriations.


Once both legislative houses have passed a bill, the bill goes to the state’s governor. If the governor signs the bill, it then becomes California law. The Secretary of State assigns the new law a chapter number, and it becomes part of the state statutes.

California code, which includes bills passed by the legislature, is made up of 29 codes. These codes include areas such as the Code of Civil Procedure, Labor Code, and Penal Code. California law also includes the California Code of Regulations, which are policies set by state agencies.

The Administrative Procedure Act, which is part of California code, allows state agencies to set these policies. The Code of Regulations is organized by titles. There are 28 titles in the code, and they address areas that include education, motor vehicles, and environmental protection.

One part of California code that includes some of the state’s more unique laws is the Civil Code. The Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act is part of this code. This act governs homeowner’s associations. The code also includes Van Camp accounting and Pereira accounting, both of which regulate community property.


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