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Glossary of Legislative Terms

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Act: A bill that has become law.

Adjournment: Ending of a meeting or legislative session. Adjournment of the House and Senate takes place at the close of each legislative day, after the hour and day of the next meeting has been announced.

Adjournment sine die (SIGN-ee DIE): Ending of a Legislature until the next session. No future meeting date is set.

Adoption: Approval or acceptance; usually applied to motions, amendments, and resolutions..

Amendment: A proposed change to a bill, such as an addition or deletion.

Appropriation: An authorization to spend state or federal money. The Legislature appropriates money by passing bills that authorize agencies to spend money for certain purposes. Such bills must originate in the House of Representatives.

Approval: Signature by the Governor of a bill passed by the Legislature.

Bicameral: Having two legislative chambers. The Montana Legislature is bicameral. It has both a Senate and a House of Representatives.

Biennial: Occurring every two years. The Montana Legislature meets biennially in odd-numbered years.

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Bill: A proposal introduced in the Legislature to enact a new law or amend or repeal an existing law.

Call of the House/Senate: A procedure used to compel attendance of members for the consideration of any specific item of legislative business.

Call to order: The action of the presiding officer that brings either chamber officially into session.

Cat and dog bill: A bill that makes a specific appropriation for a specific purpose that is not included in the general appropriations bill.

Caucus: A group of legislators with a common interest. Although the term usually is used to describe the Democratic and Republican caucuses, it also can be used to describe other groups of legislators, such as an Indian Caucus. As a verb, "to caucus" means to have a meeting.

Chamber: Either of the houses of a bicameral Legislature. The term also can be used to refer to the room in which each chamber meets.

Chief Clerk of the House: An employee appointed by the speaker of the House to supervise all House employees, oversee the handling of bills, and keep House records.

Committee of the Whole: The entire body of a chamber, such as the House or Senate, sitting as a committee for the transaction of business. When the House or Senate debates a bill on second reading, it meets as a Committee of the Whole.

Committee report: An official release of a bill or resolution from a committee to the chamber as a whole. A committee report may recommend that the chamber act favorably or unfavorably on a bill or resolution.

Concurrence: Agreement by one chamber to a proposal or action taken by the other chamber.

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Conference committee: A committee consisting of members from each chamber. The purpose of the committee is to resolve differences in a bill that has been passed in different versions by each chamber.

Confirmation: Approval by the Senate of an appointment made by the Governor.

Constituent: A resident of the district that a legislator has been elected to represent.

Convene: To officially begin the meeting of a legislative body.

Daily agenda: A list of bills to be considered by each chamber during the day's business.

District: A geographical area of the state from which a senator or representative is elected. District boundaries are determined every 10 years on the basis of population. Each district is designated by a number. There are 50 Senate districts and 100 House districts.

Effective date: The date on which a law takes effect. Most laws take effect on Oct. 1 following a session, unless the bill specifically says otherwise. Bills appropriating money take effect on July 1 following a session.

Enact: To pass a new law.

Engrossing: Revising a bill to include all amendments and technical corrections before second or third reading in the House or Senate.

Enrolling: Preparing a bill in the final form that it passes the Legislature.

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Ex officio member: A person who is a member of a committee by virtue of the office or position he or she holds. For example, the majority leader is an ex officio member of all standing committees.

First reading: The point in the legislative process when a bill is first given a number and assigned to a committee for a public hearing.

Fiscal note: A page or pages attached to a bill that estimates the financial impact of a bill on the government.

Fiscal year: The 12-month period used for state financial purposes. The fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30.

Floor session: That part of a legislator's work day that takes place when the full House or Senate meets in its chambers to conduct business. Floor sessions are generally more formal than other legislative activities.

Full-time equivalent: A budgeting unit for determining employment numbers in an agency. One FTE position represents 2,080 working hours in a fiscal year.

Gallery: Balcony area above a legislative chamber. The public can watch the floor sessions from here.

General fund: The treasury fund into which all money not earmarked for a specific purpose is deposited. The general fund supports the general functions of state government.

Germaneness: The relevance or appropriateness of an amendment to a bill. If an amendment is determined to be not germane to the bill, it cannot be added.

Hearing: Public discussion scheduled by a standing committee for the purpose of gathering information on a bill.

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Impeachment: The procedure for removing from office a public official accused of misconduct.

Indefinitely postpone: A motion to dispose of a bill without taking an affirmative or negative vote on the bill. A bill that is indefinitely postponed may not be acted on again without a motion to reconsider. Otherwise the bill is treated as if it were killed.

Interim: The months between adjournment of one regular session of the Legislature and convening of the next.

Interim committee: A group of legislators that meets during the months between sessions to study specific issues and consider whether to recommend new legislation.

Intern: A student attending a unit of higher education in Montana who is selected by the chief administrator of the school. An intern gets a working knowledge of representative government by observing and working during a legislative session.

Introduction: The formal presentation of a bill into the legislative process. This is the point when each bill is given a number.

Item veto: The disapproval by the Governor of a specific appropriation.

Joint committee: Group formed with members from both chambers.

Joint subcommittee: Group formed with members from both House and Senate standing committees. Joint subcommittees of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance and Claims Committee consider budget bills that appropriate money and give state agencies the authority to spend money.

Journal: The official record, in chronological order, of the proceedings in the House or Senate.

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LAWS (Legislative Automated Workflow System): An online system the public can use to track the status of bills during a legislative session. www.leg.mt.gov/laws.htm

Legislature: The Senate and the House of Representatives collectively.

Lobbyist: A person, usually acting as an agent for an organized group, who seeks to bring about the passage or defeat of legislative bills or to influence their content.

Majority leader: The leader of the party that has the most members in a legislative chamber.

Majority party: The political party with the most elected members.

Majority whip: A legislator selected by the majority party to help the majority leader and make sure party members are present for important votes.

Message from the Governor: An official communication from the Governor recorded in the journal.

Message from the Senate/House: An official communication from the other chamber that is recorded in the journal.

Minority leader: The leader of the party whose members make up a minority of a legislative chamber.

Minority party: The party with the second-largest number of members in a legislative chamber.

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Minority whip: A legislator selected by the minority party to help the minority leader and make sure party members are present for important votes.

Minutes: A record of the actions taken at a committee meeting. They serve as the official record of the meeting.

Montana Code Annotated (MCA): The official, published version of all the laws of Montana currently in effect.

Motion: A formal proposal offered by a legislator.

Motion to reconsider: A motion that, if passed, allows a second vote on a previous action.

Order of business: The established order of activities in floor sessions each legislative day.

Page: A high school student employed to run errands, carry messages, or act as a guide during legislative sessions.

Party: A political group organized around specific principles of government. Each party works to get its candidates elected. Parties represented in the Montana Legislature in recent history include the Constitution, Democratic, Independent, Libertarian, and Republican parties.

Point of order: An action taken by a legislator to call attention to a perceived breach of the chamber's rules.

Point of personal privilege: A procedure that allows a legislator to make personal comments on any subject while the chamber is in session.

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President of the Senate: A senator selected by the majority party to preside over Senate proceedings.

President of the Senate pro tempore: A senator who presides over the proceedings of the Senate when the president is absent.

Previous question: A motion to close debate and bring the question under consideration to an immediate vote.

Quorum: The minimum number of legislators required to be present before a legislative body can conduct business. A quorum is one more than half the membership.

Reapportionment: A process carried out once a decade after each U.S. census to divide the number of state senators and representatives among the state's population so that each legislator represents about the same number of constituents. The federal government also reapportions congressional seats for each state.

Recess: A break in the daily legislative session.

Redistricting: A process carried out once a decade after each U.S. census to determine the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts based on population. Each district must contain about the same number of people.

Referral: The sending of bills to committees by the presiding officer.

Regular session: The 90 days during each odd-numbered year when the Legislature is scheduled to meet.

Repeal: To get rid of an existing law.

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Requester: The legislator or legislative entity that asks legislative staff to draft a bill or resolution.

Resolution: A formal statement of the Legislature that 1) expresses a desire, opinion, sympathy, or request of the Legislature, or 2) requests but does not require an interim study. A resolution does not have the force of law.

Roll call vote: A method of recording votes by printing the names of the members and their votes. Roll call votes are taken electronically in both chambers.

Rostrum: The raised platform at the front of each chamber from which the presiding officer presides.

Rules: Regulations and principles governing procedures that are adopted for each chamber and for actions between chambers. There are joint rules, Senate rules, and House rules.

Second reading: The point in the legislative process when legislators debate and vote on a bill during a floor session.

Secretary of the Senate: An employee who hires and supervises Senate employees, keeps the records of the Senate, transmits bills and resolutions to the House, and serves as parliamentary adviser to the Senate.

Sergeant at Arms: An officer appointed to purchase supplies and equipment and keep order within a legislative chamber.

Session laws: The printed compilation of all bills enacted by a session of the Legislature.

Speaker of the House: A representative selected by the majority party to preside over House proceedings.

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Speaker pro tempore: A member of the House selected to preside over House proceedings in the absence of the speaker of the House.

Special session: A session of the Legislature convened outside the regular session schedule for the purposes of addressing a pressing issue. The Governor or a majority of legislators may choose to convene a special session.

Sponsor: The legislator who introduces a bill and guides it through the legislative process.

Standing committee: Permanent group that continues from one session to another to consider and hold public hearings on bills in a specific policy area, such as transportation or agriculture.

Statute: A law included in the Montana Code Annotated.

Substitute bill: An amendment that replaces the entire text of a bill. The substitute text must be within the scope of the original bill title.

Table: A motion used in committees to set aside consideration of a bill. The committee may vote to take up consideration of a bill that has been tabled, but often this motion is used to kill a bill quietly.

Term limits: Constitutional limits on how long a legislator or other state official may serve in one office. State senators and representatives may serve no longer than 8 years in a 16-year period.

Testify: To present evidence for or against a bill at a committee hearing.

Third reading: The point in the legislative process when lawmakers in each chamber take a final vote on a bill. This is the most important vote.

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Transmittal: The act of sending a bill to the second chamber for consideration after it has been passed by the first.

Veto: The constitutional right of the Governor to reject a bill passed by the Legislature.

Well: The area of a chamber directly in front of the rostrum.

 


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Last Modified:
6/25/2008 3:50:13 PM