Very generally, each bill starts in one house or the other, i.e., the senate or the assembly, goes through a series of sessions that depend on what the bill entails, and if it passes it will go before the other house. If the bill passes both houses, the governor can either veto the bill or sign it into law.
Both the senate and assembly have sessions that have a section in which the public may participate to give comments and suggestions. If used effectively, eloquently, and timely, and more often than not in a group of people rather than individually, writing to and meeting with legislators and attending these sessions can be great places to voice your stance on bills before the bill is heard in front of each house.
To participate in the hearing sessions, you can check out the California Channel to get a feel for the flow of the hearings and then go speak in front of the senate committees or assembly committees .
Similar to the state level, each city or municipality will have a space for citizens to interact as they come together to decide and enact policy. Each of these local entities will have their own structure, but generally they have a city council and several boards or commissions that advise the council.
Citizens can interact with the commissions, e.g., planning commission, during their meetings on specific topics and with more depth on the topic (no policy decision), or more broadly to the city council (possible policy decision). Often these meetings are televised, so you can check out the city’s website to watch past meetings and get a feel for the flow.
The basic structure of a city council meeting is: