Citizen's Guide to the Legislature

Common Legislative Terms

Act - legislation which becomes law.

Adjourn - to end a House or Senate floor session or committee meeting until another scheduled time.

Adjourn Sine Die - the final closing of a legislative session.

Adopt - approval or acceptance usually applied to amendments, resolutions and motions.

Advice and Consent - process by which certain appointees of the governor are confirmed by the Senate.

Agenda - a list of items to be considered at a meeting.

Amendment - proposed change in pending legislation by adding, deleting or modifying material.

Appropriation - money allocated by the Legislature to various governmental departments and agencies for their operation. A supplemental appropriation is an additional allocation of funds to a specific governmental unit for a stated purpose.

Bill - a proposal for a new law, for the amendment or repeal of an existing law, or for appropriation of public money.

Budget - a financial plan that details expected revenues (income) and appropriations (expenditures) for a specific time period. The state budget covers the period of July 1 through June 30, which is called the state fiscal year. The legislation containing the state budget is referred to as the budget bill.

Calendar - an organized list of legislation which has been reported out of committees and is ready for floor action.

Caucus - an informal meeting of a group of members, usually of the same political party, to discuss policy or legislation. During a party caucus, staff, the public and the media are not permitted to attend.

Chair - the person conducting the floor session or committee meeting.

Chamber - the area set aside for meetings of the entire membership of the Senate and of the House for conducting legislative sessions (also called the floor).

Clerk - chief administrative officer of the House or the Senate elected by the members of each body.

Committee Substitute - a written version of a bill recommended by a committee. Committee substitutes are generally offered when amendments to a bill are numerous or confusing and the ideas will be made clearer by rewriting the bill. A committee substitute retains the same subject and bill number as the original bill

Committees - the various types of legislative committees are defined below:

Committee of the Whole: an informal session of the entire membership of either house.
Conference Committee: a committee made up of Delegates appointed by the Speaker and Senators appointed by the President to try to resolve the differences in legislative measures.
Interim Committee: a group established by law or rules to work between sessions on legislative matters.
Joint Committee: a committee composed of members of both houses.
Select Committee: a group appointed by the Speaker and the President to handle specific matters. This committee is usually dissolved when its purpose is accomplished.
Standing Committee: a committee comprised of members: appointed by the Speaker and the President at the beginning of the Legislature which has continuing responsibility in a general field of legislative activity, such as Finance.
Subcommittee: a portion of a committee appointed by a committee chair to research and study a particular bill or problem and to report its findings to the entire committee.

Concur - the action of one house in agreeing to or approving a proposal or action by the other body.

Constituent - a citizen who resides within the district of a legislator.

Convene - to assemble for a meeting.

Debate - to discuss a matter according to parliamentary rules.

Discharge a Committee - to remove a bill or resolution from consideration of a committee.

Division Vote - a method of voting in which the members favoring and opposing an issue are counted and only the numerical result is recorded.

Draft - to write a bill.

Enact - to make a bill into law.

Engrossed Bill - a version of a bill that includes all adopted amendments of the house of origin attached to the original measure.

Enrolled Bill - the final, official version of a bill that is agreed to by both bodies and contains all necessary signatures.

Extraordinary Session - special session of the Legislature called by the governor to deal with specific problems arising in the state.

House of Delegates - one of the two chambers of the Legislature. It has 100 members, all of whom are elected every two years. In addition to acting on legislation, the House has the sole power of impeachment of state officers.

House of Origin - the body in which a bill or resolution is introduced.

Introduction - the step by which a bill is officially started in the legislative process.

Journal - the formal, written record of floor proceedings printed daily by the Clerk of each house. While the journals do not contain a verbatim transcript of the daily sessions, they do contain roll call votes, attendance records, committee assignments, a daily record of actions taken and bill status information.

Language - the specific wording of a bill.

Lobbyist - a person who seeks to directly or indirectly encourage the passage, defeat or modification of any legislation.

Majority - a group of legislators of the same political party who have the greatest number of elected members and who control the leadership positions.

Majority - when related to voting, a majority is the number of members in the House or the Senate necessary to pass legislation.

Minority - a group of legislators of the same political party who have the fewest number of elected members.

Motion - a proposal made to the presiding officer calling for a specific action. Motions are of various order, rank, precedence and class as established through parliamentary practice. Motions commonly used in the Legislature include:

Lie over: to allow a bill or other matter to be considered the next day.
Postpone Indefinitely: to delay action forever. If this motion is adopted, the matter being considered is dead for the remainder of the session.
Previous Question: to close debate on the subject under discussion. When this motion is made, debate is interrupted and a vote is taken on whether the body wants to end debate. If the motion fails, debate continues. If the motion is adopted, a second vote is taken on the subject itself.
Reconsideration: to retake a vote on a measure.
Table: to set aside a matter for later consideration.

Order of Business - routine agenda for floor session.

Point of Order - a member’s inquiry of the chair as to the correctness of a procedure being followed.

Presiding Officer - the elected leader of each legislative body, in the House the position is called Speaker and in the Senate it is called President. Committee chairs are also considered the presiding officers of their committees.

Privilege of the Floor - being permitted access to the Senate or House chamber when the legislators are in session.

Public Hearing - a public meeting of a legislative committee(s) on a particular subject at which any citizen may speak and offer his or her views on the subject.

Question - the main topic under discussion.

Quorum - the minimum number of persons who must be present to conduct business either on the floor of the chamber or in a committee. A quorum usually is one more than half of the membership.

Readings - the three stages bills and joint resolutions go through on the floor of a chamber. The first reading is the information stage, the second reading is the amendment stage, and the third reading is the passage stage.

Recede - to withdraw or back down from a position on an issue.

Recess - a temporary break in a daily session or a committee meeting.

Regular Session - the 60 consecutive days during which the Legislature meets each year, beginning on the second Wednesday in January. Years in which a governor is inaugurated, the Legislature meets on this date only long enough for each house to elect its officers for the next two-year term and to jointly publish the general election returns. It then adjourns until the second Wednesday in February for the 60-day session.

Repeal - to officially revoke a previous action.

Report Out or Report Back - when a committee prepares a report with its recommendations regarding an assigned bill and returns it to the full body for consideration.

Resolutions - a legislative proposal that does not require action by the governor if adopted by the Legislature. There are three types of resolutions considered by the West Virginia Legislature:

Joint: a measure used to propose amendments to the State Constitution which is placed on the ballot to be voted on by the people in a special or general election.
Concurrent: a measure affecting actions, procedures or sentiments of both houses that must be adopted by both bodies.
Simple: a measure used by a single house to take action affecting its own procedure or expressing an opinion, sympathy or commendation.

Roll Call Vote - a recorded vote count of either body of the Legislature published in the House and Senate Journals. Roll call votes may be taken in committees and are recorded in the meeting minutes. This type of voting is also referred to as the “yeas and nays.”

Rules - the set of regulations and parliamentary procedures adopted separately by the House and the Senate to govern each body’s actions. There are also joint rules which govern both houses.

Special Order of Business - a matter which is designated to be acted on a specific time and date.

Sponsor - the Legislator or legislative committee introducing a bill. A bill may have more than one sponsor with the name or names of each sponsor appearing in print on the legislation.

Statute - a written law.

Suspend the Rules - an action whereby a particular rule of either body is viewed as hampering efficient work on a certain issue or problem and the rule is temporarily disregarded through a vote of the members.

Sustain a Motion - the legislative method of seconding a motion, generally requiring agreement by at least one-tenth of the membership. Most motions are not sustained and the presiding officer announces when such an action is necessary.

Title - a concise statement of the contents of a bill. An even briefer summary is called a short title.

Unanimous Consent - permission granted, without exception, by either house to a member desiring to accomplish an action without making a motion. Unanimous consent is granted by members remaining silent or voicing no objection.

Unfinished Business - a matter held over from the previous day.

Veto - the action of the governor to disapprove a legislative measure.

Voice Vote - a method of voting whereby the members verbally, as a group, express their support or opposition to a question.

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Legislative Terms

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