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The Virginia General Assembly Pocket Glossary
of Legislative Terms

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The Virginia General Assembly
Pocket Glossary of Legislative Terms
The CONSTITUTION For The United States, Its Sources and Application

The legislative terms presented below are the definitions current in the Virginia General Assembly during the entire period of the revisal the Virginia Law Codes and the enactment of Act No. 280. March 12, 1819 which was Voted, En Bloc, adopting the !3th Titles of Honor and Nobility Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and they are still current today.

[NOTE - Prior to the 1851 revised constitution, effective in 1852, acts were not required to be signed by the Governor of Virginia, as he was not popularly elected to the executive, but selected from among the members of the General Assembly. Bills became enacted upon being signed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates and President of the Senate.]

Acts of Assembly
Those bills passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. An act is given a number which represents the numerical sequence in which the bill was signed. This number refers to the 'chapter' of the Acts of Assembly, i.e. Senate Bill 79 became Chapter 23 of the Acts of Assembly, being the twenty-third bill signed into law by the Governor. After the session, all acts are bound into volumes referred to as the Acts of Assembly. Joint resolutions amending the Constitution of Virginia are also assigned a Chapter number, but are not signed by the Governor, and are placed in the Acts of Assembly.

Termination of a session for that day, with the hour and day of the next meeting being set prior to adjournment.

Adjournment Sine Die
The final adjournment of a legislative session. The Latin translation is - without a day, an indefinite period.

A change made to legislation in committee or on the chamber floor that adds to, revises, or deletes language from the legislation.

Amendment, Constitutional
A joint resolution that affects the Constitution and is passed by two General Assembly sessions separated by a general election of the House of Delegates. At the second session, a bill must also be passed to place the proposal on a ballot. Final approval is given by voters at a general election.

Amendment In the Nature of a Substitute
A substantive redrafting of legislation that incorporates the changes in a new version referred to as a 'substitute.' An amendment in the nature of a substitute may be offered by a standing committee, on the chamber floor by a member, by a conference committee, or by the Governor.

A two-year term of legislative activity, usually used in association with the budget.

A proposal to amend, repeal, or add sections to the Code of Virginia or the Acts of Assembly.

Bill Status
The database system for tracking legislation and the daily activities of the House of Delegates and the Senate.

Budget Bill
Recommended appropriations of state revenue presented by the Governor to the General Assembly for its consideration during the legislative session.

Pass By Indefinitely (PBI)
This action allows the committee to reconsider legislation at a later meeting. If the committee takes no further action, the bill is 'dead." Report - The majority of the committee approves the bill and it is reported to the floor. The bill may be reported three ways: without amendment(s), with amendment(s), or with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. A bill may also be reported and referred to another committee.

The bill is removed from the docket. This action frequently occurs at the request of the patron.

Committee Docket
A list prepared by the committee clerk of all legislation pending before a standing committee or a subcommittee. The order in which bills are taken up is determined by the chairman of the committee.

Conference Committee
An even number of legislators, half of them from the House and half of them from the Senate, who meet to resolve differences between versions of a specific bill or joint resolution passed by their respective bodies. This usually includes three members from each body.

Conflict of Interest
A position taken by a legislator on a matter that threatens the legislator's ability to vote impartially due to some personal interest in a legislative issue (pursuant to House Rule 69 or Senate Rule 36).

A citizen residing within the district of a legislator.

A written instrument embodying the fundamental principles of the state that guarantees powers and duties of the government and certain rights to the people.

Dillon Rule
Restricts the authority of local governments with respect to the enactment of ordinances. Local governments only have powers granted by the Constitution of Virginia and/or passed by the General Assembly.

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.

A list of all legislation that is pending before a standing committee, prepared by the committee clerk. (See Committee Docket.)

Effective Date
Date on which a Chapter of the Acts of Assembly becomes a law. Laws become effective July 1 in the year they are passed, unless otherwise specified. Laws passed at a special session become effective on the first day of the fourth month following adjournment, unless otherwise specified.

Emergency Clause
Due to an emergency, the law becomes effective when signed by the Governor.

A stage in the legislative process when a bill passes the second reading in the house of origin. If amended, the engrossed version of the legislation is printed incorporating all amendments that are agreed to. If not amended, the introduced version of the legislation becomes the engrossed bill, and if an amendment in the nature of a substitute is agreed to, the substitute becomes the engrossed bill.

Legislation which has passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate. It has been signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate and it has been sent to the Governor, but not yet signed. If signed by the Governor, the bill becomes a law and a Chapter of the Acts of Assembly. [See Note Above]

Fiscal Year
A 12-month accounting period used in the State Budget. In Virginia, the fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30 of the following year.

That portion of the chamber reserved for members, staff, and other persons granted access during the session.

Floor Leader
Refers to majority and minority leadership in each house.

Balconies of each chamber from which visitors may view the proceedings.

The relevance or appropriateness of amendments or substitutes.

The interval between annual sessions.

The compilation of legislative actions and proceedings of the House of Delegates and the Senate which are published by their respective Clerk's office. The Journal is the official record of each legislative body.

Leave of Absence
Permission granted to a member to be absent for a day.

Legislative Intent
The purpose for which a measure is introduced and/or passed.

An elected member of a legislative body.

Legislature (General Assembly)
The branch of state government responsible for enacting laws.

A person who represents a particular interest or group of interests before the General Assembly,

Majority Leader
A member of the majority party designated to be its floor leader.

Majority Party
The political party having the greater number of members in either house of the legislature.

Mini Journal
A document consisting of the condensed daily floor actions of the House of Delegates, committee reports, and referrals.

Minority Leader
A member of the minority party designated to be its floor leader.

Minority Party
The political party having the fewer number of members in either house of the legislature.

Minute Book
A document consisting of the condensed daily floor actions of the Senate, committee reports, and referrals.

Morning Hour
A period at the beginning of each day's session when members may introduce distinguished visitors to their colleagues or speak on any subject by asking for a "Point of Personal Privilege.'

Motion to Reconsider
A motion which, if successful, returns the question to its status before the vote.

Parliamentary Inquiry
A question posed to the presiding officer for clarification of a point in the proceedings.

A legislator who introduces a specific piece of legislation. Other legislators may show their support by signing on as co-patrons.

The presentation of a bill before either house requiring the reading and printing of the bill number or title. This formal procedure is required by the Constitution and the Rules of each house and indicates to the legislators and the public a stage in the enactment of a measure. The Constitution requires that bills receive three readings on three different days, or three printings, by title, on three different calendars in each house, unless the readings are waived.

A redrawing of legislative district boundaries to provide equality of representation according to population.

In the Senate, this is the reassignment of legislation to the last committee that considered it.

A motion which, when granted, results in another vote annulling or reaffirming an action previously taken. Such a motion may be offered only by a member having voted previously on the prevailing side.

Reconvened Session
A session held on the sixth Wednesday after adjournment of each regular or special session when the legislature meets to consider and act on the Governor's proposed recommendations to legislation and vetoed bills.

A method by which a measure adopted by the legislature may be submitted to the voters.

The assignment of legislation to a committee. In the House of Delegates, referral is initially done by the Speaker of the House. In the Senate it is done by the Clerk of the Seriate.

In the House of Delegates, this is the reassignment of legislation to the last committee that considered it. Rereferral is initiated by a member from the floor and a vote is taken. In the Senate rereferral is the reassignment of legislation to another committee. It is done by the committee that is considering it or by a member from the floor

Legislation which requests a study, or expresses legislative opinion or sentiment on a particular issue. Resolutions do not have the force of law and do not require the signature of the Governor. Constitutional amendments, however, are signed by the presiding officer of each house and are assigned chapter numbers.

The period of time for which the legislature meets. In even-numbered years, the session meets for 60 days; in odd-numbered years it meets for 30 days. The session may be extended for a maximum of 30 days. The odd-numbered year sessions are usually extended to 46 days.

Standing Committees
Regular committees of the legislature set up to perform certain legislative functions, and to consider legislation regarding certain areas of the law. For example, the Transportation Committee considers legislation regarding highways.

A group of legislators who are members of a standing committee selected by the committee Chairman to consider certain categories of bills. Subcommittees make recommendations to the full committee.

The expiration date of a legislative measure.

Suspension of the Rules
Parliamentary procedure whereby actions can be taken which would otherwise be out of order. A 2/3 vote is required to suspend the rules.

Action by which the Governor refuses to sign legislation passed by the General Assembly. The Governor returns the vetoed bill to its house of origin. A 2/3 vote of each body is required to overturn a veto.

Formal expression of will or decision by the legislative body.

Vote, En Bloc
The disposition of several items, such as a series of bills or amendments, by taking one vote.

Vote, Recorded
A roll call vote in which each member electronically votes yea, nay, or abstain. The vote is recorded in the Journal of each legislative body.

Vote, Voice
Oral expression of the members when a question is submitted for their determination, Response is given by "yeas" and "nays," and the presiding officer states his decision as to which side prevails. Only the result is recorded, i.e. the amendment is agreed to.

The relinquishing of the floor by one member to another member to speak or ask a question during debate.

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Last updated: October 15, 2002

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