Glossary of Terms

ACT: Legislation enacted into law. A bill that has passed both houses of the legislature, been enrolled, ratified, signed by the governor or passed over the governor’s office, and printed. It is a permanent measure, having the force of law until repealed.

ADJOURNMENT: Termination of a session for that day, with the hour and day of the next meeting being set.

ADJOURNMENT SINE DIE: Final termination of a legislative session.

ADOPTION: Approval or acceptance; usually applied to amendments, committee reports or resolutions.

AMENDMENT: Any alteration made (or proposed to be made) to a bill or clause thereof, by adding, deleting, substituting or omitting.

  • Committee amendment: An alteration made (or proposed to be made) to a bill that is offered by a legislative committee.
  • Floor amendment: An alternation offered to a legislative document that is presented by a legislator while that document is being discussed on the floor of that legislator’s chamber.

APPROPRIATION: Funds allocated for various departments of government set aside by formal action for specific use. Allows money to be spent; is not actual expenditure record.

AUTHOR: The person (usually a legislator) who presents a bill or resolution for consideration; may be joined by others, who are known as coauthors. See also: introducer, patron, sponsor.

BICAMERAL: A legislature consisting of two separate chambers, each serving as a check on the other’s power.

BIENNIUM: Two-year term of legislative activity.

BILL: Draft of a proposed law presented to the legislature for consideration.

BIPARTISAN: Having an affiliation or association with (or representatives of) both political parties or caucuses in a two-party system.

CALENDAR: (1) A printed list of proposals that are arranged according to the order of business and are scheduled for consideration by a chamber. (2) Agenda of daily legislative business in a chamber.

CALENDAR DAY: Literally a day as listed on the Gregorian calendar.

CALL OF THE SENATE OR HOUSE: Procedure used to compel the attendance of members who are missing from the chamber and to compel those members already in attendance to remain in the chamber.

CAUCUS: An informal meeting of a group of the members; most commonly based on political party affiliation, but may have other bases, such as gender, race, geographic location or specific issue.

CHAMBER: Official hall for the meeting of a legislative body.

COMMITTEE: A body of members appointed by the presiding officer (or another authority specified by the chamber) to consider and make recommendations concerning disposition of bills, resolutions and other related matters.

  • Conference committee: A committee composed of members from the two houses specifically appointed to reconcile the differences between House and Senate versions of a bill or bills.
  • Interim committee: A committee established to study or investigate certain matters between annual or biennial legislative sessions and to report to the next regular session.
  • Joint committee: A committee composed of members from both chambers.
  • Standing committee: A committee appointed with continuing responsibility in a general issue area or field of legislative activity.

COMMITTEE REPORT: Official release of a bill or resolution from committee with (or without) a specific recommendation, such as “pass”, “pass as amended” or “do not pass.”

COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE: A bill offered by a committee in lieu of another bill that was originally referred to the committee for consideration; technically, the committee substitute is an amendment to the original bill.

CONCURRENCE (TO CONCUR): Action by which one house agrees to a proposal or action that the other chamber has approved.

CONSTITUENT: A citizen residing within the district of a legislator.

CONVENE: When the members of a chamber gather for the meeting of the legislature daily, weekly and at the beginning of a session as provide by the constitution or law.

DEBATABLE: Open to parliamentary discussion or argument.

DEBATE: Discussion of a matter according to parliamentary rules.

DECORUM: Proper order, etiquette and conduct of members during a floor session.

DIED IN COMMITTEE: The defeat of a bill by not returning it from committee to the house for further action. (Only permitted in certain states.)

DISSENT: Difference of opinion; to cast a negative vote.

DISTRICT: That division of the state represented by a legislator distinguished numerically or by geographical boundaries.

EFFECTIVE DATE: A law generally becomes effective, or binding, either upon a date specified in the law itself or, in the absence of such a date, a fixed number of days (depending on the state) after the final adjournment of the session during which it was enacted or on signature by the governor.

EMERGENCY CLAUSE: A statement in a bill that indicates the act shall take immediate effect.

ENACTING CLAUSE: That clause of an act that formally expresses the legislative sanction. It varies in different states, but usually begins “Be It Enacted.”

ENGROSS: Most commonly, the process by which a bill is updated–that is, how adopted amendments and other changes are incorporated into a bill—as it makes its way through the Senate or House.

ENROLL: Most commonly, the process of changing a bill passed by both chambers into its final format for transmission to the governor.

EXECUTIVE SESSION: A session excluding from the chamber or committee room all persons other than members and essential staff personnel.

EXPUNGE: An action that directs the removal of specific portions from the journal. This is applicable in situations where objectionable, inflammatory or incorrect matter has been included in the journal.

FILIBUSTER: The prolonged discussion of a bill to delay legislative action.

FIRST READING: The first presentation of a bill or its title for consideration. In some states, the first reading is done at the time of introduction.

FISCAL: Dealing with state revenues and expenditures.

FISCAL NOTE: A fiscal note seeks to state in dollars the estimated amount of increase or decrease in revenue or expenditures and the present and future implications of a piece of pending legislation.

FISCAL YEAR: An accounting period of 12 months.

FLOOR: That portion of the legislative chamber reserved for members and officers of the assembly or other persons granted privileged access.

GERMANENESS: The relevance or appropriateness of amendments or substitutes.

HEARING: Public discussion and appearance on a proposal or bill; usually scheduled by a committee.

HOUSE: Generic term for a legislative body; shortened name for House of Representatives or House of Delegates.

INSERT: Add language to a bill or resolution.

INTERIM: The interval between regular sessions of the legislature.

INTRODUCTION: The formal presentation of a proposal after it has been drafted.

JOINT RULES: Parliamentary rules governing joint procedures or operations of the Senate and House.

JOINT SESSION: A combined meeting of the Senate and House in one chamber.

JOURNAL: An official chronological record of the actions taken and proceedings of the respective chambers.

LEGISLATIVE DAY: A day on which either chamber convenes (or both chambers convene) to conduct official business.

LEGISLATIVE INTENT: Purpose for which a measure is passed.

LEGISLATIVE LIAISON: Person appointed to communicate between legislators and other departments.

LEGISLATOR: Elected member of a legislative body.

LEGISLATURE: The branch of state government responsible for enacting laws.

LINE ITEM: Numeric line in an appropriation or budget bill.

MAJORITY LEADER: A member of the majority political party designated to be a leader. (The procedure for designating the majority leader and other officers varies from state to state.)

MAJORITY PARTY: The political party having the greatest number of members in the legislature or in either chamber.

MAJORITY REPORT: Recommendation of action on a measure that is submitted by a majority of the members of a committee.

MEASURE: General term for bill, resolution or memorial.

MEMBER ELECT: Member who has been elected, but who has not yet taken the oath of office or who is not yet officially serving.

MEMBERS PRESENT: The term used to refer to those members who are actually present at a daily session.

MEMORIAL: The method by which the legislature addresses or petitions Congress and other governments or governmental agencies; method by which the legislature congratulates or honors groups or individuals.

MINORITY LEADER: A member of the minority political party designated to be leader. (Process of designation varies from state to state.)

MINORITY PARTY: The political party having fewer numbers of members in the legislature or in either chamber.

MINORITY REPORT: A report that reflects the thinking of the members not favoring the majority position or action on an issue.

MINUTES: Accurate record of the proceedings of a meeting in chronological order.

MOTION: Formal proposal offered by a member of a deliberative assembly.

NONPARTISANHaving no association or affiliation with a political party or caucus.

OATH OF OFFICE: Oath taken by members-elect of the legislature prior to being seated and embarking upon official duties.

ORDER OF BUSINESS: The defined routine of procedure in the legislative body each day.

OUT OF ORDER: Not being conducted under proper parliamentary rules and procedures.

PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY: Question posed by a member to the presiding officer for clarification of the procedure or business before the house.

PARTISAN:– Associated or affiliated with a single political party or caucus.

PATRON: The person (usually a legislator) who presents a bill or resolution for consideration; may be joined by others, who are known as copatrons. See also: author, introducer, sponsor

PER DIEM: Literally, per day; daily expense money rendered to legislators or staff.

PETITION: Formal request submitted by an individual or group of individuals to the legislature.

POINT OF INFORMATION: A request from a legislator to the presiding officer for clarification of a procedural matter.

POINT OF ORDER: A question by a member to the presiding officer calling attention to a breach of order or of the rules.

POSTPONE INDEFINITELY: A means of disposing of an issue by not setting a date on which to consider it again.

PRECEDENT: Interpretation of rulings by presiding officers on specific rules; unwritten rules that are established by custom.

PRESIDENT: Usually, the title given to the person elected (or designated by constitution) as the presiding officer of the Senate.

PRESIDING OFFICER: Person designated to preside at a legislative session.

PRO TEMPORE (PRO TEM): The designated officer of the senate or house acting in the absence of the regular presiding officer.

QUORUM: When a legislative body is assembled, the minimum number of members required to transact business.

QUORUM CALL: A method used to establish the presence of a majority for the lawful transacting of business.

RATIFY: To approve and make valid.

READING: Presentation of a bill before either chamber by the reading the bill, its title or its number. A formal procedure required by constitution and rules that indicates a stage in enactment process. Most often, a bill must receive three readings on three different days in each legislative body.

RECESS: Intermission in a daily session; intermission from one day to the next; .

REFERRAL: The assigning or referring of a bill to committee.

REPEAL: A method by which a legislative action is revoked or annulled.

RESOLUTION: A document that expresses the sentiment or intent of the legislature or a chamber, that governs the business of the legislature or a chamber, or that expresses recognition by the legislature or a chamber.

ROLL CALL: Names of the members being called in alphabetical order and recorded; used to establish a quorum or to take a vote on an issue before the body.

RULES: Regulating principles or methods of legislative procedure.

RULING OF THE CHAIR: A decision by the presiding officer concerning a question of order or procedure.

SECRETARY OF THE SENATE: A non-legislator officer appointed or elected by the members of the Senate to perform and direct the parliamentary and clerical functions of the Senate; also may be called “clerk,” “chief clerk” or “principal secretary.”

SENATE: A legislative body; usually the body in a bicameral legislature having the fewer number of members.

SENIORITY: Recognition of prior legislative service.

SESSION: (1) Period during which the legislature meets; (2) the daily meeting of the Senate or House.

  • Regular session: The annual (or biennial) meeting of the legislature required by constitution
  • Special (or extraordinary) session: A special meeting of the legislature that is called by the governor (or the legislature itself) and limited to specific matters.

SIMPLE MAJORITY: One more than half of those voting on a question.

SINE DIE: Literally, “without day;” usually, adjournment without a day being set for reconvening; final adjournment.

SPEAKER: Usually the title given to the person elected as the presiding officer of the House or Assembly; in some states, the title given to the presiding officer of the Senate.

SPECIAL ORDER: (1) To set consideration of a bill or measure for a specific, future time of the session; (2) matter of business set for discussion at a special time, on a designated day or both.

SPONSOR: The person (usually a legislator) who presents a bill or resolution for consideration; may be joined by others, who are known as cosponsor. See also: author, introducer, patron.

STATUTE: A formal enactment of the legislature of a more permanent nature. The term “statute” is used to designate written law, as distinguished from unwritten law.

STATUS OF BILL: The progress of a bill at any given time in the legislative process. It can be in committee, on the calendar, in the other house, etc.

STRIKE OUT: The deletion of language from a bill or resolution.

SUNSET: Expiration date of a measure.

SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATION: Adjustment of funds allocated by the original appropriation.

SUSPENSION OF THE RULES: Parliamentary procedure whereby actions can be taken that would otherwise be out of order.

TERM OF OFFICE: Period of time for which a person is elected.

TITLE: A concise statement of the subject and the contents of a bill.

VETO: Action by the governor to disapprove a measure.

VETO OVERRIDE: Vote by the legislature to pass a bill over a governor’s veto.

VOICE VOTE: Oral expression of the members when a question is submitted for their determination. When asked by the presiding officers, members respond “aye” or “nay.” The presiding officer then decides which side prevailed.

VOTE: Formal expression of a decision by the body.

YEAS AND NAYS: Recorded vote of members on an issue.

Erickson, Brenda. “Glossary of Legislative Terms.” GLOSSARY OF LEGISLATIVE TERMS, National Council of State Legislators,


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