If you are new to navigating your state capitol building, or even a seasoned veteran, you may be Googling a few legislative terms thrown around capitol halls that everyone seems to know, except you. Don’t worry – DMGS is here to help you understand a few of these legislative terms while you get ready for fall legislative sessions!
Bicameral vs Unicameral
The vast majority of state legislatures are bicameral, meaning two chambers (i.e., a House and Senate). However, unicameral legislatures do exist. The Nebraska Legislature has only one chamber, with just 49 senators.
In some states, lawmakers are only in session for a single calendar year. Other states operate in a two-year legislative session, which is a biennium.
Lawmakers are often informally divided into groups, or caucuses, based on varying factors. Notably, caucuses are based on political affiliations (i.e., the House Democratic Caucus, or the Senate Republican Caucus). Other caucuses are based on other factors such as geography, gender, race, issue expertise, etc.
Legislation that will impact revenues or expenditures is typically assigned a fiscal note, which explains the fiscal impact the bill will have.
Visitors are able to view the proceedings of a legislative chamber from the chamber’s balcony, known as the gallery.
The House (or Assembly) and the Senate typically meet for sessions in their respective chambers. However, joint sessions may be called where both the House and Senate meet in the same chamber.
Different state agencies often have individuals, legislative liaisons, assigned to serve as a point person for lawmakers to interact with said agency.
Per diem is Latin for “per day” which is essentially an allowance or expenses set aside daily for lawmakers (or staff).
Some states allow lawmakers to pre-file legislation before the start of their legislative session. Looking at what bills are pre-filed often can paint a picture of what issues may be top priorities of lawmakers that year.
In order to conduct business, lawmakers must meet a quorum—a certain number of members in attendance.
Sine Die means “without day,” which serves as a final adjournment of lawmakers without setting a day for reconvening.
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