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Legislative Terms and Definitions

  • Amend: the action a legislator takes to change or propose a change in a bill, motion, report, or even another amendment by adding, omitting, or altering language.
  • Appeal: a resort to a higher court from a lower court.
  • Bicameral: a legislature containing two houses.
  • Biennium: 1) the two-year period by which the state budget is set. Money is appropriated for a two-year budget cycle during the odd-numbered years. The fiscal biennium runs from July 1 in an odd-numbered year to June 30 in the next odd-numbered year. 2) the two-year legislative term, which begins in January of an odd-numbered year and ends in December of an even-numbered year.
  • Bill: a proposal calling for a new law, a change in current law, the repeal of current law, or a constitutional amendment. It consists of a title, enacting clause, and body (text), which is examined and approved by the revi-sor of statutes.
  • Bill, House advisory: a proposal for the initiation, termination, alteration, or study of a law or program which may be drawn up informally in everyday terms. Advisories are used only in the House.
  • Bill, resolution: a proposal, introduced as a House or Senate file, that urges another governmental body, to take or refrain from a certain action. A resolution can also simply express the opinion, sentiments, or intent of a body, or both, if the resolution is a joint one.
  • Calendar: a list of bills that have passed General Orders and are awaiting their third reading, or final passage, in either the House or the Senate.
  • Caucus: 1) a group of House members or the same political party or faction such as the "DFL Caucus," the "Republican Caucus," the "Majority" or the "Minority Caucus''; 2) a meeting of such a group.
  • Chief author: the main author, or sponsor, of a bill.
  • Committee of the Whole: all members of a legislative body acting as a committee to debate and/or amend bills on General Orders.
  • Companion bills: identical bills introduced in the House and Senate.
  • Concurrence: action in which one body approves or adopts a proposal or action taken by the other house.
  • Conference committee: a group of six or 10 members, with equal numbers from the House and Senate, who are appointed to reach a compromise between the House and Senate versions of a bill.
  • Conference committee report: language of a bill as agreed upon by a conference committee.
  • Consent Calendar: a list of non-controversial bills that are waiting for their second reading. These bills bypass the Committee of the Whole and can receive final passage in one day.
  • Enacting clause: the constitutionally required portion of a bill which formally expresses the intent that it become law: "Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Minnesota . . ."
  • Engrossment: the current text of a bill or resolution which includes or incorporates all adopted amendments to the title and/or text.
  • Enrollment: a bill that has been passed by both houses and has been put in final form to be presented to the governor for his signature.
  • Final passage: the vote taken on a bill after its third reading, requiring a majority of all elected members of a leg-islative body for approval.
  • First reading: the reporting of a bill to the body at the time of its introduction and referral to committee.
  • Floor: after a bill passes through the committee process, it is sent to the "floor" in either the House or Senate, meaning it is placed on any of the various bill lists while awaiting debate by all members.
  • General Orders: a list of bills that have had second readings and may be debated and/or amended by the body acting as the Committee of the Whole.
  • House advisory: (see bill, House advisory)
  • House file: the number assigned to a bill before it is introduced. It is listed at the top of the bill. HF2379, for ex-ample.
  • Introduced (n., introduction): the formal presentation of a bill to a body of the Legislature. The bill gets its first reading at this time and is then referred to a committee.
  • Journals: refers to either the Journal of the Senate or the Journal of the House, which are the official records of the respective bodies.
  • Justice: a title given to judges, usually those who serve on the U.S. or state supreme courts.
  • Judge: a person who presides over a court.
  • Legislative intent: what the Legislature really meant when it approved a specific law.
  • Legislative session: the term session is used loosely and has many different meanings -- l) the two-year period during which the Legislature meets; 2) regular session refers to the annual meetings of the Legislature; 3) daily sessions refer to the times when the House and Senate meet in their respective chambers.
  • Line item veto: (see veto, line item)
  • Lobbyist: a person acting individually or for an interest group who tries to influence legislation.
  • Majority: the party that has the most members elected in either the House or the Senate.
  • Minority: the party, that has the fewest members elected in either the House or Senate.
  • New language: the language in a bill that is added, or proposed to be added, to existing state law. New lan-guage in bills is always underlined.
  • Omnibus: a term used to describe tax, education, appropriations, and other bills that contain many different pro-posals.
  • Page: a person employed by the House or Senate to run errands, to assist committees, and to perform a variety of other legislative tasks.
  • Pocket veto: (see veto, pocket)
  • Recommendation: the action a committee takes on a bill. Although in common usage a committee is said to pass a bill, technically, it recommends a bill to pass.
  • Repassage: a final vote on a bill previously passed in another form to include amendments of the other cham-ber, a conference committee or amendments.
  • Repeal: to eliminate a law, or section of a law, by an act of the Legislature.
  • Resolution: (see bill, resolution)
  • Second reading: reporting of a bill to the body, following the adoption of the committee report, that places it on General Orders or the Consent Calendar.
  • Senate file: the number assigned to a bill before it is introduced. It is listed at the top of the bill. SF1354, for ex-ample.
  • Session: 1) the biennial period during which the Legislature meets; 2) regular session, the annual meeting of the Legislature between the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January and the first Monday after the third Saturday in May; 3) special or extra session, a meeting of the Legislature after the end of 120 legislative days in the biennium or after the date set by law for adjournment; 4) daily session, a meeting of the House or Senate in its chamber. (Note: The House and Senate meet only two days a week during the early part of the session; every day after the session's midpoint.)
  • Sine die: when the Legislature adjourns "without a day", in the even-numbered years, the second year of the biennium.
  • Special Orders: a list of bills designated for priority consideration by the Rules and Legislative Administration Committee, that may be debated and/or amended, immediately given a third reading, and considered for final passage.
  • Sponsor: a chief author or co-author of a bill.
  • Stricken language: language that is proposed to be eliminated from existing state law. Stricken language in bills is always crossed out.
  • Third reading: the final reporting of a bill to the body before its final passage. No amendments, except amend-ments to the title, may be offered after the third reading unless unanimous consent is granted.
  • Unicameral: a single body legislature.
  • Unofficial engrossment: amendment by the other house of a bill which has been passed by its house of origin. For example, the House cannot officially amend a Senate bill, so when the House considers a Senate bill and makes changes, that engrossment is unofficial until the bill returns to the Senate and the Senate adopts the en-grossment.
  • Veto: the constitutional power of the governor to refuse to sign a bill, thus preventing it from becoming law unless it is passed again (with a two-thirds majority) by both houses of the Legislature.
  • Veto, line item: the power or action of the governor, rejecting a portion or portions of an appropriations bill, while approving the rest.
  • Veto, pocket: rejection of a bill by the governor after the Legislature has adjourned sine die, preventing its re-consideration by the Legislature.
  • Yield: to surrender the floor temporarily to another member for the purpose of hearing a question or inquiry. "Madam Speaker, will Rep. Brown yield to a question?"

Text primarily taken from People and the Process: A Legislative Study Guide, published by the Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Office, 1991.

Permission to reproduce granted by the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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