Legislative Glossary & Terms

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ABSENT. Not present at a session.

ACT. A bill which has passed both houses of the legislature, been enrolled, certified, approved by the governor or passed over the governor's veto, or otherwise becomes law..

ADJOURN SINE DIE. Final termination of a regular, special or organizational session.

ADJOURNMENT. Termination of a legislative day upon the completion of business with the hour and day of the next meeting being set prior to adjournment.

ADOPTION. Approval of motions, amendments, substitutes or resolutions.

AMENDMENT. An alteration made, or proposed to be made, to a bill or resolution by adding, changing, substituting or omitting language.

APPEAL. A parliamentary procedure for challenging the decision of a presiding officer after a Point of Order is made regarding the ruling of the chair.

APPORTIONMENT. Establishment of legislative districts from which legislators are elected.

APPROPRIATION. Allocation by law of state funds for various departments of government, state schools, and other specific uses. One of the prime responsibilities of the legislature is the power to allocate or appropriate state money.

APPROVAL BY THE GOVERNOR. Signature of the governor on a bill passed by the legislature, whereupon the bill becomes an act (law). (Constitutional amendments do not require the governor's signature).

ARCHIVES. Public records kept by the Secretary of State and later by the Department of Archives and History. These include copies of all measures considered at each session: journals and other legislative documents.

ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OPINION. A formal expression of legal reasons and principles regarding statutory or common law questions from state agencies or legislators. The opinions do not carry the weight of law.

BILL. A proposed law presented to the legislature for consideration. If the bill is passed by both houses and signed by the governor (or otherwise has become law), it becomes an act (law).

BILL STATUS. The progression and current stage of a legislative instrument from its introduction to becoming law.

BIR. Abbreviation for Budget Isolation Resolution. A BIR is attached to every House and Senate bill approved in committee. They must be adopted before the respective bill can be debated. Consideration of BIRs discontinue when both state budgets have passed the legislature and have been transmitted to the governor.

BUDGETS. Suggested allocation of state money presented by the governor in each regular session of the legislature by the second legislative day. The Education Budget appropriates funds to public schools, colleges, universities and other education-related agencies. The General Fund Budget appropriates funds to non-education agencies, such as Corrections and Medicaid.

CALENDAR. A list of bills by title, printed each legislative day, which have been reported out of committee and are ready for the third reading. Bills not disposed of on that legislative day are carried over in the same order to the next day's calendar. (See Regular Order Calendar, Special Order Calendar and Consent Calendar).

CALL OF THE HOUSE. The procedure used to compel the attendance of members who are missing from the chamber and to compel members already in attendance to remain in the chamber.

CALL TO ORDER. Notice given indicating the legislature is officially in session. Also used to restore order during floor action.

CARRIED OVER. Term used to describe a motion on which action has been postponed on a legislative matter.

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.

CHAIR. An abstract designation of the presiding officer.

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

CLERK OF THE HOUSE. A non-legislator officer elected by the members of the House of Representatives to record the official actions of the House. The clerk also serves as the chief administrative officer and the House parliamentarian.

CLOTURE. A parliamentary action in the Senate to cease debate on a bill and vote immediately on its advancement. In the House, this action is known as a motion on the previous question.

CODE OF ALABAMA. A compilation of laws and their revisions according to subject matter (usually arranged by title, chapter and section); the official publication of the statutes.

COMMITTEE AMENDMENT. Any alteration made (or proposed to be made) to a bill or resolution that is reported by a legislative committee.

COMMITTEE CHAIR. A member selected by the proper appointing authority to preside over the proceedings and actions of a specific committee.

COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE. A bill reported 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.

COMMITTEES (INTERIM).Joint legislative committees appointed to study a specific problem between sessions, to report to the legislature before a certain date with recommendations. Such committees are usually created by joint resolution.

COMMITTEES (STANDING). Groups of senators or representatives appointed by the presiding officers or Senate president pro tem to act on bills in a certain area of interest. The committees last for the entire length of a legislative term (4 years).

COMPANION BILL. A bill in one house that is identical to a bill in the other house.

CONCUR. Agreement by one house to an amendment added by the other house, the governor or a conference committee.

CONFEREES. Members appointed to a conference committee.

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE. Committee composed of 3 members (conferees) of each house appointed by the presiding officer in the House and the Committee on Assignments in the Senate to resolve differences between the two houses on an amended instrument. Said committee reports amendments back to the legislature for further action.

CONFERENCE REPORT. Amendments agreed upon by at least 4 members, two from the House and two from the Senate, that are designed to resolve differences between the two houses.

CONFIRMATION OF APPOINTMENTS. The Senate is required by law to concur in certain governor's appointments before such appointees can officially begin to serve. The process consists of consideration by the standing committee, a motion on the Senate floor to confirm, and a roll call vote. House action is not required.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST DECLARATION. A written statement by a House member filed with the clerk in the House stating that the legislator is abstaining from a vote due to a possible conflict of interest. (This doesn't apply in the Senate. If a senator has a conflict of interest, he/she would simply abstain from voting without declaring a reason. If a senator wants to make known his/her reason for abstaining and it to be part of the record, he/she could ask that it be spread upon the journal..

CONSENT CALENDAR. A listing of non-controversial bills which have been through the consent calendar process in the House Rules Committee and are to be considered before the regular order calendar on each legislative day.

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

CONSTITUTION. The written instrument embodying the fundamental principles of the state that establishes power and duties of the government and guarantees certain rights to the people.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. A bill that amends the Constitution of Alabama. After legislative enactment, it must be accepted or rejected by the people in a statewide election. However, local constitutional amendments may only be voted on in the affected county.

CONSTITUTIONAL MAJORITY. The number of votes required to amend the Constitution. In the House, a constitutional majority is 63, in the Senate, it is 21.

CONTESTED BILL. Disputed. One member can prevent a local bill from being considered in the regular order of business by filing a written contest with the clerk in the House or the secretary in the Senate.

CONVENE. To meet in session.

COSPONSOR. Any member, other than the sponsor, who signs their name on a bill or resolution.

DAY CERTAIN. Adjournment with specific date to reconvene.

DEBATE. Discussion by legislators, during a committee meeting or while the House or Senate is meeting, supporting or opposing an issue.

"DESK IS CLEAR". There is no pending business before the House or Senate. This statement usually precedes an adjournment motion.

DIED IN COMMITTEE. The defeat of a bill or resolution by a standing committee.

DISSENT. Difference of opinion.

DISTRICT. The division of the state represented by a legislator determined on the basis of population. There are currently 105 House districts and 35 Senate districts.

DIVISION OF QUESTION. Procedure to separate a matter to be voted upon into two or more questions.

DOORKEEPER. An official appointed by the Senate (or House) to admit authorized personnel into the legislative chambers.

EFFECTIVE DATE. The date upon which an act becomes effective. If a date is not specified in the bill, it becomes law upon signature of the governor. Constitutional amendments are effective on the date of ratification unless specified otherwise.

ELECTION. Act of selecting a person to fill an office.

ENACTMENT CLAUSE. The phrase "BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:" at the beginning of each bill that expresses the legislative sanction.

ENGROSSMENT. The incorporation of amendments into a bill or resolution before it is sent to the second house.

ENROLLMENT. The final processing of a bill or resolution, incorporating all amendments, after passing both houses. This is the document that is signed by both presiding officers and the governor. Constitutional amendments do not require the governor's signature.

ETHICS.Standard of moral conduct.

EX OFFICIO. The act of holding a particular office by virtue of holding another.

EXECUTIVE AMENDMENT. An amendment proposed by the governor to a bill that has been passed by the legislature. If the governor proposes an amendment to a bill, it is then returned to the legislature for further action.

EXECUTIVE SESSION. A closed meeting. Committees have strict restrictions on when they can meet in executive session.

EXPULSION. The act wherein a body removes one of its members as provided under its rules.

FAVORABLE REPORT. The recommendation of a standing committee that a bill be passed, either in its original form or with amendments or a substitute.

FILIBUSTER. An action by which members can control the floor through "extended debate" on a measure for the purpose of delaying passage. A senator may speak for two one-hour periods on any debatable measure before the Senate. House members may speak for two 10-minute periods.

FISCAL NOTE. An estimate of the expected financial impact of a measure to state and/or local government. Fiscal notes are prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Office.

FISCAL YEAR. The year covered by the state's budget (October 1 through September 30).

FLOOR. The working area of either chamber of the legislature.

FLOOR AMENDMENT/SUBSTITUTE. Any alteration offered to a legislative document that is presented by a legislator while that document is being discussed on the floor of the chamber.

GALLERY. The balconies of the chambers from which visitors may view proceedings of the legislature.

GENERAL BILL. A bill of general statewide interest or whose provisions apply to the entire state.

GERMANE. Relating directly to the content of a bill.

GOVERNOR. The chief executive officer of the state.

GRANDFATHER CLAUSE. Inserted in a bill making provisions nonapplicable to activities or personnel involved prior to the enactment of the legislation.

GUBERNATORIAL APPOINTMENT. Designation by the governor to fill an office or position. The Senate confirms many gubernatorial appointments.

HEARING. A legislative committee meeting at which witnesses present testimony on matters under consideration in the committee.

HONORARY PAGE. A young person who is acting as a nonpaid runner for members of either house.

HOPPER. The mythical depository where bills are dropped for introduction. Actually, bills are either filed with the secretary of the Senate or clerk of the House.

HOUSE OF ORIGIN. The house in which a measure is introduced.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. Often referred to as the lower chamber of the two-body legislature. The House has 105 members who serve four-year terms from districts based on population.

IMPEACHMENT. Procedure to remove from office a public official accused of misconduct.

INDEFINITELY POSTPONE. To postpone without setting a definite time for consideration. Often synonymous with killing a measure.

INITIATIVE. A method of lawmaking that requires a vote of the people instead of a vote of the legislature in order for a measure to become law.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS. An order of business during which new bills are read into the record.

JACKET. A folder that holds a bill and reflects its movement through the legislative process. Green is for House bills as introduced and blue is for Senate bills as introduced. Yellow jackets reflect engrossed House bills and beige jackets reflect engrossed Senate bills.

JIMMY SHEET (HOUSE). A chronological "log" of all motions, bill actions, roll calls, and all other official floor action, recorded by a clerk in the House chamber. It is from this record that the journal is compiled.

JOINT COMMITTEE. A committee composed of members from both houses.

JOINT SESSION. A combined meeting of the House and Senate in one chamber, usually in the House Chamber. The purpose is to receive special information, such as the Governor's State of the State Address, or to honor an infamous person.

JOURNAL. Official record of legislative proceedings in each house.

LAY ON TABLE. A motion to defeat or postpone an amendment or motion.

LEAVE OF ABSENCE. Permission to be absent for good cause, granted by unanimous consent at the beginning of each legislative day.

LEAVE OF HOUSE. Permission for a committee to meet while in session.

LEGISLATIVE INTENT. If the words of a law cannot be clearly interpreted as written, a court may refer to the journal and record of floor and committee sessions to establish the intent of the legislature in passing certain bills.

LEGISLATIVE REFERENCE SERVICE. The legislative agency which drafts bills and resolutions and conducts research at the request of members of the legislature.

LEGISLATOR. Elected member of either the House of Representatives or Senate.

LEGISLATURE. The branch of state government responsible for enacting laws. The body is made up of the members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR. Presiding officer of the Senate.

LINE-ITEM VETO. The power of the governor to selectively veto items in a general appropriations act or any specific appropriation in a substantive act containing an appropriation.

LOBBYIST. A representative of a special interest group whose role is to influence legislation affecting his/her special interest.

LOCAL BILL. A bill that applies to one county or one city. Local bills must be advertised for four consecutive weeks in the local newspaper before introduction.

MAJORITY LEADER. The member chosen by each house's majority party caucus to manage the passage of those bills it favors.

MAJORITY OF THE HOUSE. Quorum requirement of one more than half of the qualified members.

MAJORITY PARTY. The political party with the most members in a legislative body.

MAJORITY VOTE. A vote of more than half of the legislative body considering a measure. The House requires a majority vote of 53 and the Senate requires 18 based on the membership of 105 and 35, respectively.

MEMBERS. Legislators having taken the oath of office.

MESSAGE. An official communication from one house to the other or from the governor to the legislature, usually transmitting bills or resolutions; they become part of the official journal.

MINORITY LEADER. The legislator elected by the minority party caucus to be the leader of the minority party members in the House or Senate.

MINORITY PARTY. The political party that has less than a majority of members in the House or Senate.

MOOT. A term indicating that a motion is not timely because it can no longer affect an action or event.

MOTION. Formal suggestion offered by a member; it can be a motion to adopt, a motion to lay on the table, a motion to adjourn, etc., and when it is "put" (or officially received by the presiding officer), it is acted upon by voice vote or roll call.

NONCONCUR. A motion made when the House or Senate refuses to agree to an amendment by the other house, a governor's amendment or a conference committee.

NOTICE AND PROOF. The "notice", published in a local newspaper, that a local bill affecting that county or city will be introduced; and "proof" of publication for four consecutive weeks prior to introduction in the legislature. (See LOCAL BILLS).

OATH OF OFFICE. Oath taken by members at the beginning of their terms.

OFFICIAL COPY. A copy of a bill, made immediately after introduction, which may be substituted for the original in the event it is lost. This procedure prevents time lost in reintroducing a bill.

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

ORGANIZATIONAL SESSION. A 10 calendar-day session held at the beginning of each quadrennium. The only business which may be transacted is as follows: swearing-in of members, canvassing of returns, appointment of committees, adoption of rules and adoption of resolutions.

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

PAIR. A gentleman's agreement between legislators on opposite sides of a question to withhold their votes. Generally, this involves an absent member who (1) wishes to have his/her position recorded and (2) wants to be sure his/her absence will not affect the outcome. A pair, while recorded in the Journal, is not taken into account in tallying a vote.

PASSAGE. Favorable floor action on a bill upon its third reading.

PENALTY CLAUSE. Section of a bill which lays out criminal or civil penalties for violation of the law.

PER DIEM. Payment in lieu of living expenses.

POCKET VETO. Bills not signed by the governor and delivered to the secretary of state within ten days after adjournment sine die.

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

POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE. A statement by a member not relevant to the pending business, such as a request to be recorded as voting "aye" or "nay" on a previous roll call, a protest against a newspaper article, or an invitation to a social gathering. There is a five minute limitation, by precedent, on such statement.

POSTPONE. To delay consideration of a measure until a certain legislative day or hour of the same day. (See Indefinitely Postpone).

PREFILE. To introduce a bill prior to a regular session; the bill is numbered and informally referred to a standing committee at this point, and on the first legislative day it is read and formally referred to the same committee.

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE. Presiding officer of the Senate and lieutenant governor of the state and in his/her absence, the president pro tem or any other designated senator.

PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE. A senator elected by the Senate in the organizational session to discharge the duties of the presiding officer in the lieutenant governor's absence.

PREVIOUS QUESTION. A motion to close debate and bring the pending question or questions to an immediate vote in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, this action is known as cloture.

PRIVILEGE OF THE FLOOR. Permission to be in the legislative chambers as set out in the rules.

PROCLAMATION. An order issued by the governor to call the legislature into a special session.

PUBLIC HEARING. Committee meeting open to the public, on a specific bill, with interested parties invited to testify.

QUORUM. The minimum number of members required to transact business. Fifty-three members constitute a quorum in the House and 18 members constitute a quorum in the Senate. A majority of a quorum can pass any bill except a constitutional amendment which requires 63 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate. If a quorum is not present, the only business that is in order is either a motion to adjourn or a motion to request the attendance of the absentees.

READ AT LENGTH. The reading of an entire bill.

READING CLERK. The member of the staff who assists the secretary (or clerk) by calling the roll, tabulating votes, reading bills, messages and resolutions, and otherwise assisting at the desk.

READING, FIRST. The reading of a bill by title upon introduction, after which the presiding officer refers same to an appropriate standing committee for study.

READING, SECOND. The reading of a bill when it is reported out of committee, along with announcement of committee action. The presiding officer then orders said bill placed on the calendar for the next legislative day.

READING, THIRD. The reading of a bill when it comes up for consideration on the calendar. It is at this point that amendments are considered and the bill is passed or defeated. If it is passed, it is then transmitted to the other house.

REAPPORTIONMENT. Redivision of the state into equal legislative districts based on the most recent census.

RECESS. A break within a sitting during which a legislative body is not conducting business. After a recess, a legislative body resumes business at the point where business halted when the recess was taken.

RECOMMIT. A procedure whereby a bill is referred back to a standing committee for further consideration. A bill may be recommitted at any time, usually on second or third reading.

RECONSIDERATION. A process whereby a measure previously adopted or defeated can be reopened (within a strict time span) and again acted upon.

REDISTRICTING. Redrawing the boundaries of areas of representation, such as legislative districts, to make them equal in population. Generally done once every decade.

REFERENDUM. An election on legislation referred by the legislature to the voters for their rejection or enactment.

REGULAR ORDER CALENDAR. A list of bills in the order that they were reported out of committees for third reading. It reflects the order for considering bills absent a special order calendar.

REGULAR SESSION. In Alabama, the annual convening of the legislature is for 30 legislative days within a span of 105 calendar days. In the first year of an administration, the session begins on the first Tuesday in March to allow the new governor time to prepare the proposed budget. In the second and third years the session begins on the first Tuesday of February. The fourth year, being an election year, the legislature convenes on the second Tuesday in January.

REPRESENTATIVE. A member of the House of Representatives.

REREFER. To reassign a bill to a different committee. A bill may be rereferred at any time, usually on second or third reading.

RESCIND. Annulment of an action previously taken.

RESOLUTION. A formal legislative document expressing opinion. Joint Rule 11 resolutions are sympathy, commendation or congratulations.

ROLL CALL. Record of how members voted on a particular issue or question.

ROLLING RESERVE ACT. Act that limits appropriations from the Education Trust Fund to the average growth for the previous 15 years.

RULES. Regulating principles or methods of legislative procedure.

RULES COMMITTEE. Committees in each house responsible for setting the daily calendars of the House and the Senate.

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

SECRETARY OF SENATE. Principal parliamentarian and record keeper for the Senate; elected by the senators at the beginning of each four-year session. Responsible for recording the official actions of the Senate and to be the chief administrative officer of the Senate.

SENATE. Upper chamber of the two-body legislature. The Senate has 35 members who serve four-year terms.

SENATOR. A member of the Senate.

SERGEANT AT ARMS. The person charged with enforcing the directions of the speaker of the House of Representatives. The sergeant's office is responsible for the security of the legislative body.

SESSION. The period during which the legislature meets.

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

SINE DIE. Adjournment "without day", that is, without designating a day to which the legislature adjourns; final adjournment of a session.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. The presiding officer of the House, elected from its membership by the House at each organizational session. The highest ranking officer of the House of Representatives.

SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE. Speaker "for a time", or vice-speaker, also elected from its membership by the House at each Organizational Session.

SPECIAL ORDER CALENDAR. A list of bills, in resolution form, from the regular order calendar that are reported out of the Rules Committee for priority treatment.

SPECIAL OR EXTRAORDINARY SESSION. A session, limited to 12 legislative days within 30 calendar days, called by the governor for a specific purpose set out in his/her proclamation. Any measures not included in his/her call require a 2/3 majority for passage.

SPONSOR. Member offering a bill, resolution, amendment or substitute.

SPREAD UPON THE JOURNAL. Print at length and enter in the Journal any bill, petition, report, speech, etc.

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. This can be determined by referring to the computer system which provides a constant update on all legislative action.

STATUTES. Individual laws which comprise the Code of Alabama.

SUBCOMMITTEE. Selected members of a committee designed to study a special area of concern and then report to the whole committee their findings and recommendations.

SUBSTITUTE. An amendment in the form of an entire bill. When adopted, a substitute becomes the bill.

SUBSTITUTING HOUSE BILL FOR SENATE BILL. When a Senate bill is in position for final passage, an identical House bill listed on the Senate calendar may be substituted by a majority vote.

SUBSTITUTING SENATE BILL FOR HOUSE BILL. When a House bill is in position for final passage, an identical Senate bill listed on the House calendar may be substituted by a majority vote.

SUNSET. A program of reviewing state agencies for continuation, termination, or modification.

SUSPEND THE RULES. To temporarily set aside the rule involved in an action for the sake of expediency.

SYNOPSIS. An informal summary (as opposed to the title) of a bill, required by rule to be attached to each bill, other than a local bill, upon introduction. This is usually in layman's, rather than lawyer's, language.

TAB SHEET (SENATE). A chronological "log" of all motions, bill actions, roll calls, and all other official floor action, recorded by a clerk in the Senate chamber. It is from this record that the journal is compiled.

TABLE. A motion to postpone.

TEMPORARILY CARRIED OVER. Term used to describe a motion on which action has been temporarily postponed on a legislative matter.

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

TIE VOTE. An equal yea-nay vote (such as 17 yeas, 17 nays), which in the Senate can be broken by the lieutenant governor. A tie vote in the House of Representatives is a failure to pass.

TITLE OF BILL. The title, or caption, of a bill precedes the enacting clause and is an abbreviated, formal statement of the subject matter contained therein.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS. Business which has been carried over from a previous day.

VETO. The action of the governor in disapproving a measure. On its return to the legislature, each house either sustains the veto or overrides it.

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

VETO SUSTAINED. House refused to pass bill over veto of governor.

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 prevails.

VOTE.Formal expression of a decision by the body.

WELL. The areas of the House and Senate floors where the debate podiums are located.

WITHDRAW. To remove a bill, amendment or other legislative matter from further consideration.

WITHOUT RECOMMENDATION. A report on a bill from a standing committee which returns a bill to the full house for consideration, but without the endorsement of the committee.

YEA, NAYS, ABSTAINS. A vote which indicates which legislator voted in favor (Yea), against (Nay) or abstains from voting (Abstains) on an issue.

YIELD. To relinquish the floor to another member to speak or ask a question.

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