Budget – a session used to work on the state budget and other fiscal matters. 

Extraordinary – a special session called by the governor to address the issues specified. 

Organizational - a period where the legislature meets to organize and prepare for the next session.  They swear in legislators, make committee appointments, and adopt the rules for both chambers. 

Perfunctory - a session where the legislature may meet to take limited action on legislation.  Only the following actions are permitted: 1) bills may be read and recorded, 2) committees may meet and take action on bills in that committee, and 3) any committee reports resulting from the meeting may be read and recorded.  No other action may take place during a perfunctory session.  

Regular - the normally scheduled period of time which the legislature officially convenes. 

Skeleton - a session where only a few legislators usually attend in each chamber to conduct routine business, such as when there is no interest in a bills' passage but the legislature is required to have at least one hearing for each bill that was introduced as a courtesy to the bill sponsor.

Special - a session called to work on important bills that still need action taken on them, address a particular issue such as figuring out the budget, to discuss important topics, or during an emergency.

Veto - a veto session is where the state legislature convenes to address bills that the governor vetoed.  The legislature can override a veto if a certain number of legislators (often 2/3) in both the house and senate vote to override it.

Legislature Status and Types

Adjournment - to end the meeting of a legislature for the day with a set date and time to meet again. 

Bicameral Legislature – a legislature with two chambers (both a House and Senate).

Convene – the start of a legislative session or the start of a meeting. UAPPEAL uses it to announce when a legislative session starts.    

Floor Sessions Concluded – when the legislature has completed work on bills but has not yet adjourned sine die.  Any bill that has not passed both chambers by this date is essentially dead.  This can happen when a legislature decides to end the session early but has a set sine die adjournment date or when a legislature waits until after their veto session to adjourn sine die. 

Recess – 1) a short break during a committee hearing or floor session or 2) a break of the entire legislature for several days. 

Sine Die Adjournment – final adjournment of a legislative session. 

Unicameral Legislature – a legislature with only one chamber.  Nebraska is currently the only state with a unicameral legislature.

Legislation Types

Act - a bill that has passed the legislature and either signed by the governor or became law without a signature.  Sometimes they are called a chapter.

Bill – a legislative proposal that if passed by both the House and Senate (or just the one for Nebraska) and approved by the governor (or governor veto overridden by legislature) becomes law. Each bill is assigned a bill number.

Appropriation – bills that allocate money for a specified reason.

Budget – the Governor’s spending proposal for the next year for various state programs.

  •  Companion – an identical bill that is introduced in both the House and Senate.

  • Engrossed – a bill that has been checked in its printed form to ensure that all amendments have been added correctly.  

  • Enrolled – a bill that has passed the House and Senate and has been checked for accuracy. 

  • General – bills that are not appropriation, revenue or finance bills.

  • Re-engrossed – an engrossed bill that is updated with new amendments and checked in printed form for accuracy.

  • Shell – a bill introduced with little to no text where the text is usually added by amendment later.  It is also sometimes called a skeleton bill.

  • Substitute – a bill that is completely replaced with a new bill.  Usually this is done when substantial changes are made to a bill, parts of other bills are added to it, or to replace it with a bill that is not as far along in the legislature. 

  • Tie-bar – a bill that does not become law unless the other bills(s) it is attached to become law.   

Resolution – a type of legislation that is used primarily to express the sense of the chamber where it is introduced or passed.

  • Concurrent – a type of resolution that is used to the express the sense of both chambers.  Concurrent resolutions are used for issues that affect the procedures of the legislature, to recognize individuals or   organizations or to express condolences.

  • Joint – a type of resolution used to propose amendments to the state constitution that is treated the same as a bill except that it does not need approval from the governor.  

  • Simple – a type of resolution that only affects the members of one chamber.  They are used for the same purposes as concurrent resolutions except that they apply to that chamber only. 


Special Committee Types

Assignments Committee – a committee used in some states that is responsible for assigning bills to a committee.

Committee of the Whole – a committee made up of either the entire House or entire Senate that works on a bill.  The committee cannot actually pass the bill. 

Conference Committee – a committee made of members of both the original House and Senate committee members that works out the different versions passed by the House and Senate.

Interim Committee – a committee that studies various topics or meets for a specific purpose during the time between legislative sessions.

Joint Committee – a committee that includes both House and Senate members.  For states that use joint committees, both the House and Senate must approve sending the bill to that committee, and if favorable by the committee, both must then individually vote to pass it.

Standing Committee – an ongoing, permanent committee.   

Rules Committee – a committee used in some states that is responsible for assigning bills to a committee.  Sometimes a rules committee will also set rules for debating the bills in the House or Senate.

Bill Actions

Adopt – to formally approve of amendments to a bill.

Amend – to formally change the text of a bill after its introduction.

Author/Sponsor Amendment – changes the author or sponsor makes to the bill after it is introduced.

Committee Amendment – changes a committee member introduces to a bill.

Floor Amendment – changes a House or Senate member introduces to a bill while being heard in the entire House or Senate.

Concur/Concurrence – when either the House or Senate approves of the amendments to the bill made by the other. 

Died in Committee
– when a bill fails the committee deadline and no further action can be taken.

Interim Study
- when the committee a bill is in decides to meet between sessions or during the recess period of the state legislature to further study the issue and its impact.  This gives them more time to review it without being rushed since legislators are often extremely busy while a state is in session.  Committees will often do this with bills of interest that they want to learn more about before they decide to take action on it. 

Introduced – when a new bill is officially presented. 

Motion – a proposal to take a certain action

Override – when both the House and Senate vote to overturn a governor’s veto on a bill.  This usually requires a 2/3 vote. 

Postpone – 1) to delay action on a bill or 2) to delay a committee hearing on a bill. 

– When a bill is filed before a legislative session begins. 

Reading – each bill is required to have three readings by the entire chamber in both the House and Senate. 

  • First Reading - For the first reading, a bill is often read by title only.  The first reading can either occur immediately after a bill is introduced or after it passes out of committee depending on the state.   

  • Second Reading – The second reading can either occur after the first reading or after a bill passes committee depending on the state.  Some states require that a chamber wait a day between readings.  During this reading, committee amendments are often adopted along with floor amendments.

  • Third Reading – the final reading and vote of a bill.    

Reconsider – to vote on a piece of legislation again.  Bills that fail on the 3rd reading can sometimes be reconsidered one or more times depending on the state. Many times, there will be an official motion to reconsider.

Referred – when a bill is formally sent to a committee.

Reported – when a subcommittee submits its recommendations to the committee or the committee submits it to the entire House or Senate.

  • Majority Report – recommended action on a bill by a majority of the members of a committee.

  • Minority Report – recommended action on a bill that differs from the majority.

Rules Suspended – when the House or Senate agrees to bypass their formal rules.  This is commonly seen when bills are supposed to have a day or more between readings and a chamber bypasses it to have two or three readings the same day and when they are bypassing sending a bill to committee.    


  • Signed by Speaker of the House and President of Senate – after a bill passes both the House and Senate, it must be signed by the head person of both.  

  • Signed into Law/Approved by the Governor – when the Governor signs a bill, allowing it to become law.

Substitute – when a bill is replaced with another bill.  This is common when there are two companion bills where one is chosen to be passed other the other. 

Suspense File (X-File for WA) – a special file for bills that a committee or the entire chamber no longer wants to take action on. 

Table or Lay on Table – when further action is stopped on a bill either in committee or during the floor session.   It can either be temporary or permanent depending on the state.

  • Laid Over – when action is postponed on a bill until another day.  Sometimes it will state daily which means action is delayed until the next working day.

  • Lifted from the Table – when a tabled bill is given further consideration.

Veto - a power that allows the governor to refuse approval of a piece of legislation.

  • Amendatory or conditional - the power to send a bill back to the legislature with suggested changes.

  • Line–item - the power of a governor to veto particular lines (items) in budget appropriation bills.

  • Pocket - the power of a governor to veto a bill by not taking any action on it. 

Vote – take official action on a bill

  • Do Pass/Favorable – when either a subcommittee or committee recommends passing the bill as is.

  • Do Pass as Amended/Favorable as Amended – when either a subcommittee or committee recommends passing the bill with its recommended changes.

  • Do Not Pass/Unfavorable - when either a subcommittee or committee does NOT recommend passing the bill.

  • Failed in Committee – when a committee officially kills a bill by voting against it.  Some states require the entire House or Senate to concur first.

  • Indefinitely Postpone – to postpone action on a bill without a set date to continue work on it.

  • Left in Committee – when a bill is controversial, a committee will often leave a bill pending in committee where it can be taken up again at any time.

  • Record Vote – when the members of a committee or chamber electronically vote on a bill.

  • Voice Vote – when the members of a committee or chamber orally vote on a bill or a specific action related to a bill.

  • Without Recommendation – when a subcommittee or committee gives no recommendation to whether to pass or not pass a bill.

Vote to Draft (Connecticut) – Connecticut only introduces bills with a summary of its purpose. Then, if the committee wants to move forward, it will vote to introduce an official bill draft.

Withdrawn – to officially remove a bill from further consideration.

Withdrawn from Committee – when a bill is removed from one committee and either referred to another or sent to the entire chamber.  

Work Session – when a committee meets to further discuss a bill without public testimony.


Bill Parts

Amend – when a bill proposes to change the text of a current law.

Bill Analysis – explanation of how the bill changes the current law and its impact.

Effective Date – when the bill takes effect.

Enacting Clause – lists authority of legislature to enact the law.

Fiscal Analysis – explanation of the costs of enforcing the bill if it became law.

Grandfathering – a provision in a bill that exempts certain existing situations from it.  It is most commonly used in ban bills to exempt current owners that meet certain requirements.

Preamble – lists the reason for the bill. Usually will have the terms “Whereas” and “Therefore”. 

Repeal – when a bill annuls the text of a current law.

Safety Clause – the clause is some bills stating that it is for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety.  This allows a bill to take immediate effect.   In some states, petitions can be made to send laws to the people for approval, and this clause allows them to circumvent that.  

Severability Clause – the clause declaring that if any part of a bill is found unconstitutional, the rest is not affected.  This protects the rest of the law if it passes and then gets challenged in court. 


State Agency Terms

Administrative Code – official listing of rules adopted by all agencies in a state that are currently in effect.  This does not include any policies. 

Adopted – when a state agency officially approves a proposal. 

Amend – to revise the text of a current rule or policy.

Authority – citation of state statute that gives the state agency permission to pass the rule.

Citizen Petition – when a member of the public or organization requests a change to either a current rule or proposes a new rule.  Also used for requests to classify wildlife into an initial category or reclassify into another category.

Codified – when rule changes are added to the state administrative code.

Comment Period – official dates when the public can submit comments on a rule.

Commission/Board – official group of members within a state agency that is responsible for passing state agency proposals.

Council/Committee (name varies depending on state) – a subgroup that recommends to the commission/board what action to take on proposals.  Sometimes the council will actually draft the text of the proposals. 

Effective Date – when the rule change goes into effect. 

Executive Order – a signed order by the state governor that the state agency must follow.

Executive Session – a non-public meeting of the state agency where certain matters are addressed.

Joint Committee on Agency Review (name varies depending on state) – a committee that reviews rules passed by state agencies to ensure 1) the agency has authority to pass it, 2) it is properly formatted, and 3) the legal rule-making process was followed. 

Notice of Intent to Adopt a Rule – when a state agency first announces a proposal to change a rule.  The official rule-making process has not begun yet.  

Re-adoption – when a rule that has an expiration date is approved again.  Usually, this is because a state only allows rules to remain in effect for so many years.  After that, the agency must either amend, re-adopt or repeal them.   

Repeal – to revoke a current rule or policy.

Rule – law passed by a state agency. 

Emergency Rule – a temporary rule a state agency can quickly adopt during a state of emergency until a final rule is adopted.  An emergency rule allows bypassing the normal rule-making process.

Final Rule – a rule adopted by a state agency.

Proposed Rule – a new rule or rule change that a state agency is considering that shows all recommended changes.

Rule Review - when a state agency goes over a set list of rules to determine whether to amend, readopt, or repeal them.  Sometimes the agency will do this on their own if they are considering certain changes to their current laws, while for others, it is mandatory for any rules not considered in the past so many years.     

Rule-making – official process for adopting a new rule or rule change. Usually it includes a public notice, comment period, hearing date, agency adoption, rule review by an outside committee or group, and then posting of final rule.   

Public Hearing – official meeting for public testimony on a state agency proposal.

State Administrative Register/Bulletin - a state publication that contains information about the state’s various agencies, including proposed rules, adoption of rules, upcoming rule reviews, meeting dates and agendas, special items the agency is working on, and other information. 

Other Terms

Chamber – the House (Assembly) or Senate.  

Co-sponsor – one or more legislators that add their name formally in support of another legislator’s bill. However, a co-sponsor is not required, and therefore, not every bill has a co-sponsor or co-sponsors.

District – the area that a legislator represents. 

Sponsor – the original legislator who introduces a bill.  Some states will also have committees as sponsors.

Statutes – officially listing of all laws passed by the state legislature that are currently in effect.

State Legislative Glossary