Glossary of Legislative 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 It is a permanent measure, having the force of law until repealed

    Acclamation: An oral vote (often unanimous), when there is only one nomination, expressing approval by shouts, hand-clapping, etc., rather than by formal ballot

    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 regular or special 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

    Appeal: A parliamentary procedure for testing (and possibly changing) the decision of a presiding officer

    Apportionment: Establishment of the legislative districts from which members are elected

    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

    At-Large Election: An election in which candidates are chosen on an individual basis rather than as representatives of a geographically defined, single-member district. At-large elections can be held at the legislative and presidential levels. In the United State of America, some states hold at-large elections for congressional seats, when, for instance, a state’s entire population warrants only one representative


    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

    Bill Number: The identifying number given each bill filed for introduction

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

    Budget: (1) The suggested allocation of state moneys presented to the legislature for consideration; (2) a formal document that reflects the authorized expenditures of the state


    Calendar: (1) A printed list of proposed legislation that is arranged according to the order of business and is 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

    Carry-Over Legislation: Legislation that is held over from the first year of a legislative biennium to the second year

    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

    Censure: An action by a legislative body to officially reprimand an elected official for inappropriate or illegal actions committed by that official while in office. The act of censuring is an official condemnation for inappropriate or illegal actions committed by a public official while holding a position of trust

    Chamber: Official hall for the meeting of a legislative body

    Clerk of the House: A non-legislator officer who is elected by the members of the House to perform and direct the parliamentary and clerical functions of the chamber. Also may be titled “house principal clerk.”

    Clerk of the Senate: A non-legislator officer who is elected by the members of the Senate to perform and direct the parliamentary and clerical functions of the chamber. Also may be titled “senate principal clerk.”

    Code: A compilation of laws and their revisions according to subject matter arranged by title, chapter and section. The official code of North Carolina is the North Carolina General Statutes

    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

    Committee Amendment: An alteration made (or proposed to be made) to a bill that is offered by a legislative committee

    Committee of the Whole: Either house of the legislature sitting in its entirety as a committee to consider bills or issues

    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

    Conferee: Members of a conference committee appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker

    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

    Conflict of Interest: Untenable position that threatens the ability of a legislator to vote impartially due to some personal interest in a legislative issue

    Constituent: A citizen residing within the district of a legislator

    Constitution: A written instrument embodying the fundamental principles of the state that guarantees powers and duties of the government and guarantees certain rights to the people. You can read North Carolina’s Constitution here.

    Contiguous area (annexation): Any area which, at the time annexation procedures are initiated, either abuts directly on the municipal boundary or is separated from the municipal boundary by a street or street right-of-way, a creek or river, the right-of-way of a railroad or other public service corporation, lands owned by the municipality or some other political subdivision, or lands owned by the State of North Carolina. A connecting corridor consisting solely of the length of a street or street right-of-way may not be used to establish contiguity.

    Corner offices: Colloquialism for the General Assembly’s leadership, namely Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger


    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

    Dilatory: Deliberate use of parliamentary procedure to delay

    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

    Division: A method of voting; a request that members stand or raise hands to be counted when the outcome of a voice vote is unclear or in dispute

    Division of a Question: Procedure to separate a matter to be voted upon into two or more questions


    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, 60 days after adjournment of the biennial session

    Election: Act of selecting a person to fill an office

    Emergency Clause: A statement in a bill that indicates the act shall take immediate effect

    Eminent Domain: Eminent domain refers to the power possessed by the state over all property within the state, specifically its power to appropriate property for a public use. In some jurisdictions, the state delegates eminent domain power to certain public and private companies, typically utilities, such that they can bring eminent domain actions to run telephone, power, water, or gas lines. In most countries, including the United States under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, the owner of any appropriated land is entitled to reasonable compensation, usually defined as the fair market value of the property. Proceedings to take land under eminent domain are typically referred to as “condemnation” proceedings.

    Enacting Clause: That clause of an act that formally expresses the legislative sanction. In North Carolina the constitutionally required enacting clause reads, “The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts”

    Engross: The process of by which adopted amendments and other changes are incorporated into a bill as it makes its way through the Senate or House

    Engrossed Edition: The version of a bill as passed by one house with the floor amendments worked into it

    Enroll: The process of changing a bill which has passed both chambers into its final format for transmission to the governor

    Enrolled Edition: The final version of a bill, which has passed both chambers, and is reprinted in preparation for the signatures of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. After these confirmatory signatures, the enrolled bill goes to the Governor

    Excused: Absent with the permission of the body or the presiding officer

    Executive Branch: The Executive Branch of government enforces laws made by the legislature. The head of this branch is the Governor, who is elected every four years. Along with the Governor, the Executive Branch also includes the Lieutenant Governor, the Council of State, and many State agencies

    Executive Session: A session excluding from the chamber or committee room all persons other than members and essential staff personnel

    Extraordinary Session: A special meeting of the legislature that is called by the governor (or the legislature itself) and limited to specific matters. Also called a Special Session

    Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ): Currently under North Carolina law, an ETJ is area extending one mile beyond a city’s borders within which municipalities can exercise zoning authority and other powers without the consent of those affected


    Filibuster: The prolonged discussion of a bill to delay legislative action

    First Reading: The first presentation of a bill or its title for consideration; also may be called 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. Only General Assembly members can request fiscal notes

    Fiscal Year: An accounting period of 12 months. North Carolina’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30

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

    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


    Gallery: Balconies of the chamber from which visitors may view the proceedings of the legislature

    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 of Representatives: 120 members who serve a term of 2 years. Members must have lived in their districts one year before election


    Impeachment: Procedure to remove from office a public official accused of misconduct

    Indefinite Postponement: A form of adverse disposition of a proposal for that session of the legislature

    Insert: Add language to a bill or resolution

    Interim: The interval between the long and short sessions of the legislature

    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

    Introducer: The legislator who presents a bill or resolution for consideration; may be joined by others, who are known as cointroducer; also may be called sponsor

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


    Joint Committee: A committee composed of members from both chambers

    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

    Judicial Branch: The Judicial Branch interprets what our laws mean and makes decisions about the laws and those who break them. The Courts of the Judicial Branch are split into three divisions, the Appellate Division, the Superior Court Division, and the District Court Division


    Legislative Branch: The Legislative Branch makes laws for North Carolina. It is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which together are known as the General Assembly. The Legislature meets biennially and all members are elected for two-year terms

    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 government agencies

    Legislative Oversight: Scrutiny of executive branch programs and performance by the legislature

    Legislative Service Agency: Nonpartisan legislative branch agency providing services such as legal and bill drafting, impartial research and information or technical services

    Legislator: Elected member of a legislative body

    Legislature: The branch of state government responsible for enacting laws

    Lieutenant Governor: The presiding officer of the Senate and is elected in a statewide election every four years. Their main duty is to maintain order in the Senate

    Line Item: Numeric line in an appropriation or budget bill

    Line Item Veto: An action taken by a governor to prevent the enactment of an item of an appropriation bill. The North Carolina governor does not have this type of veto

    Lobbyist: A representative of a special interest group whose function is to influence legislation affecting his special interest

    Local Act: Legislation enacted into law that has limited application, affecting fewer than 15 counties

    Long Session: The odd-numbered first year of the General Assembly’s two-year legislative cycle, called a biennium


    Majority Leader: A member of the minority political party designated to be leader

    Majority Party: The political party having the greatest number of members in the legislature or in either chamber

    Majority Report: A report that reflects the thinking of the members not favoring the majority position or action on an issue

    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

    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


    NCGA: The North Carolina General Assembly

    Non-Standing Committee or Commission: A committee or commission authorized by legislation to study specific topics. The powers and duties of each committee are set forth in the authorizing legislation. The membership is appointed by the Speaker of the House and/or the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. In some instances other persons or entities may have appointing authority

    Nonpartisan: Having 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

    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 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 of the Senate: The Lieutenant Governor serves as Senate President and presides over the daily session. The Senate President does not vote except to break a tie

    President Pro Tempore (Pro Tem) of the Senate: The officer elected by the Senate to preside in the absence of the Senate President and to exercise other duties set out in the Senate Rules

    Presiding Officer: Person designated to preside at a legislative session

    Previous Question: A motion to close debate and bring the pending question or questions to an immediate vote

    Principal Clerk: Responsible for the administrative duties of the Senate/House and is elected by the members every two years. Responsible for documenting all of the actions that are taken on bills and recording these actions in the Journal

    Private Act: Legislation enacted into law that has limited application

    Public Act: Legislation enacted into law that applies to the public at large, affecting 15 or more counties


    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

    Reapportionment: Redrawing legislative district boundaries to provide equality of representation; also may be called redistricting

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

    Referral: The assigning or referring of a bill to committee

    Regular Session: The annual (or biennial) meeting of the legislature required by constitution

    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


    Select Committee: A committee established by the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, or by an adopted resolution of either Chamber for a particular issue. This committee may be established as single chamber committee or may be a joint committee. The powers and duties for the committee are set forth by the establishing authority and the membership is appointed by the Speaker of the House and/or the President Pro tempore of the Senate

    Senate: 50 members who serve a term of two years. Members must be 25 years old when elected; have lived in NC as a citizen for 2 years; and have lived in their district one year before election

    Senate Principal Clerk: 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

    Seniority: Recognition of prior legislative service

    Sergeant-At-Arms: The person charged with enforcing the directions of the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The Sergeant’s office is responsible for the security of the respective legislative body and maintenance of property of that house

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

    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 of the House: Presiding officer of the House of Representatives elected by the House

    Special Session: A special meeting of the legislature that is called by the governor (or the legislature itself) and limited to specific matters. Also called a Extraordinary Session

    Sponsor: The legislator who presents a bill or resolution for consideration; may be joined by others, who are known as cointroducer; also may be called introducer

    Standing Committee: A committee appointed with continuing responsibility in a general issue area or field of legislative activity

    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.

    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

    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


    Underwater mortgages: Mortgage arrangements that effectively leave the owner with more debt on the property than the current market value

    Unicameral: A legislature with only one chamber


    Veto: Action by the governor to disapprove a measure. The North Carolina governor has had veto power from 1997 to date

    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

    Yield: To relinquish the floor to another member to speak or ask question