Find Your Legislator
Enter ZIP Code

   


Find an Instrument
Search Bills, Rules & Confirmations
(i.e. HB1, HJR1, SR1, SCF1)




VISIT OUR
HISTORICAL SECTION
THE ALABAMA LEGISLATURE

LEGISLATIVE GLOSSARY



A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | V | W

ACT. A bill which has passed both houses of the Legislature, been enrolled, certified, approved by the Governor or passed over the Governor's veto, or otherwise becomes law.

ADJOURNMENT. Termination of a legislative day upon the completion of business with the hour and day of the next meeting being set prior to adjournment.

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

AMENDMENT. Any change proposed to be made to a bill or resolution by adding, substituting, or omitting.

APPEAL. A parliamentary procedure for challenging the decision of a presiding officer after a Point of Order is made regarding a ruling of the chair. In an appeal from the ruling of the chair, the body votes in the affirmative to sustain the ruling of the chair, and in the negative to support the appeal. If the required affirmative vote under the rules is met, the chair is sustained and the ruling stands. If the required affirmative vote under the rules is not met, the ruling is voided.

APPORTIONMENT. Establishment of legislative and senatorial districts from which legislators are elected.

APPROPRIATION. Allocation by law of state funds for various departments of government, state schools, and other specific uses. One of the prime responsibilities of the Legislature is this power to allocate, or appropriate, state moneys.

APPROVAL BY THE GOVERNOR. Signature of the Governor on a bill passed by the Legislature, whereupon the bill becomes an act. (Constitutional amendments do not require the Governor's signature).

ARCHIVES. Public records kept by the Secretary of State and later by the Department of Archives and History. These include copies of all measures considered at each session, journals, registers, and other legislative documents.

BICAMERAL. Consisting of two houses. All states have bicameral legislatures except Nebraska, which has only one house (unicameral).

BILL. A proposed law presented to the Legislature for consideration. If the bill is passed by both houses and signed by the Governor (or otherwise has become law), it becomes an act (law).

BUDGET. Suggested allocation of state moneys presented by the Governor to each regular session of the Legislature by the second legislative day. The appropriation bills are based largely on this budget.

BUDGET ISOLATION. The procedure by which the passage of the two budget bills (general and education) is given priority in the regular session. Passage of any other legislation must be preceded by the adoption of a resolution exempting it from the budget isolation process.

CALENDAR. A list of bills and resolutions by titlee, printed each legislative day, which have been reported out of committee and are ready for third reading. Bills not disposed of on that legislative day are carried over in the same order to the next day's Calendar.

CHAIR. An abstract designation of the presiding officer.

CLERK OF THE HOUSE. The chief officer of the staff of the House of Representatives. He hires and supervises all House staff, processes bills at the desk during sessions, and assists the Speaker in interpreting rules. He is elected by the membership of the House.

CLOTURE. The agreement of a 3/5 majority of the Senate that debate on a given measure shall cease at a specified time. This parliamentary procedure, in resolution or petition form, is used only as a last resort to end a filibuster. (The House does not have a cloture provision.)

CODE OF ALABAMA. The whole body of Alabama law. In 1977, the Legislature officially adopted a new Code (the first since 1940) which has been in preparation since 1975, to be known as the Code of 1975 until such time as it is recompiled.

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE. A device which enables the Senate or House to use the greater flexibility of procedure available to committees. Any action informally agreed upon in a committee of the whole must be taken officially in full session. There is no record taken of action by a committee of the whole.

COMMITTEES (STANDING). Groups of senators or representatives appointed by the presiding officers to act on bills in a certain area of interest.

COMMITTEES (INTERIM). Joint legislative committees appointed to study a specific problem between sessions, to report to the Legislature before a certain date with recommendations. Such committees are usually created by joint resolution.

CONCURRENCE. Agreement by one house to an amendment added by the other house. Also, adaption of a joint resolution originating in the other house.

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE. Committee composed of members of both houses appointed by the presiding officers, to resolve differences between the two houses on an amended bill. Said committee reports recommendations and/or amendments back to the Legislature for further action.

CONFIRMATION OF APPOINTMENTS. The Senate is required by law to concur in certain Governor's appointments before such appointees can officially begin to serve. The process consists of consideration by the Conference Committee, a motion on the Senate floor to confirm, and a roll call vote. House action is not required.

CONSENT CALENDAR. A listing of non-controversial bills which have been through the consent calendar process (see THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS) and are to be considered before the regular order calendar on each legislative day.

CONSTITUENT. A citizen residing within the district of a Legislator.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. A bill which amends the Constitution of Alabama. After legislative enactment, it must be accepted or rejected by the people at a state-wide election.

CONVENE. To meet in formal legislative session.

DEBATE. To argue the merits of a bill, pro and con. "Extended debate" is a euphemism for filibuster.

DESK. The area in front of the presiding officer's rostrum where the Secretary (or Clerk) and Reading Clerk supervise paperwork, receive messages from other house, and consult with the presiding officer.

"DESK IS CLEAR". 'There is no pending business before the Senate (or House)." This statement usually precedes an adjournment motion.

DIED IN COMMITTEE. The defeat of a bill by the decision of a standing committee not to return it to the full house for a second reading.

DISTRICT. That division of the state represented by a legislator, determined on the basis of population.

DOORKEEPER. An official appointed by the Senate (or House) to admit authorized personnel into the legislative chambers.

ENACTING CLAUSE. In Alabama, "Be It Enacted By The Legislature Of Alabama". This phrase, which follows the title, is a necessary part of every bill.

ENGROSSMENT. The incorporation of amendments into a bill before it is sent to the second house.

ENROLLMENT. The final processing of a bill or resolution, incorporating all amendments, after passing both houses. This is the document that is signed by both presiding officers and the Governor.

EXECUTIVE AMENDMENT. An amendment proposed by the Governor to a bill that has been passed by the Legislature. If the Governor proposes an amendment to a document, it is then returned to the Legislature for further action.

EXECUTIVE SESSION. A closed meeting. This applies to standing committees and on rare occasions, legislative bodies. They sometimes go into executive session on crucial committee action, or when personalities are involved. This procedure is seldom used.

EX OFFICIO. The holding of a particular office by reason of holding another; for example, the Lieutenant Governor is ex officio a member of the Legislative Council by virtue of his office.

FAVORABLE REPORT. The recommendation of standing committee that a bill be passed, either in its original form or with amendment or substitute.

FILIBUSTER. A strategic device by which a minority can control the floor through "extended debate" on a controversial measure for the purpose of either delaying or preventing passage. A Senator may speak for two one- hour periods on any debatable measure before the Senate.

FISCAL NOTE. A statement attached to a "money" bill when it is returned to either house from committee. Usually, prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Office, it gives the estimated amount of increase or decrease in revenue or expenditures, and the present and future fiscal implications of a piece of pending legislation.

FLOOR. The working area of either chamber of the Legislature.

GERMANE. Relevant; an amendment must be germane to the bill which it amends.

GRANDFATHER CLAUSE. Laws providing new or additional professional or business qualifications often contain a "grandfather clause", exempting persons presently practicing an affected profession or business from having to comply.

HOPPER. The mythical depository where bills are dropped for introduction. Actually, bills are either pre-filed with the Secretary of the Senate or Clerk of the House, or are handed up to the desk when the districts are called.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. The "lower house", comprised of 105 members, each representing a district based on population.

INDEFINITELY POSTPONE. To "kill" a bill; in this case, "indefinitely" means "forever", unless the bill is reconsidered under the rules.

JOURNAL. The official chronological record of the proceedings of the Senate and House, certified, indexed, printed and bound at the close of each session.

LAY ON TABLE. A motion to defeat an amendment or motion; this can be accomplished by voice vote or roll call vote, when requested.

LEAVE OF ABSENCE. Permission to be absent for good cause, granted by unanimous consent at the beginning of each legislative day.

LEGISLATIVE REFERENCE SERVICE. The legislative agency which drafts bills and conducts research at the request of members of the Legislature.

LOBBYIST. A representative of a special interest group whose function is to research and influence legislation affecting his special interest.

LOCAL BILL. A bill which affects only one county or city mentioned by name in the bill. It might be an extension of city limits, a pay raise for a county official, or a local tax. In the Senate, these bills are usually passed by an automatic 25-0 vote, after having been approved by the local delegation. Local bills must be advertised for four consecutive weeks in the local newspaper before introduction, and an affidavit of such advertisement is entered in the journal.

MESSAGE. An official communication from one house to the other or from the Governor to the Legislature, usually transmitting bills or resolutions; they become part of the official journal.

MOTION. Formal suggestion offered by a member; it can be a motion to adopt an amendment, a motion to lay on the table, a motion to adjourn, etc., and, when it is "put" (or officially received by the presiding officer), it is acted upon by voice vote or roll call.

NOTICE AND PROOF. The "notice", published in a local newspaper, that a local bill affecting that county or city will be introduced; and "proof" of publication for four consecutive weeks prior to introduction in the Legislature. (See LOCAL BILLS).

OFFICIAL COPY. A copy of a bill, made immediately after introduction, which may be substituted for the original in the event it is lost. This procedure prevents time lost in reintroducing a bill.

ORGANIZATIONAL SESSION. A brief, 10 calendar day session held at the beginning of each administration. The only business which may be transacted is as follows: swearing-in of members, canvassing of returns, appointment of committees, adoption of rules, and adoption of resolutions.

PAIR. A gentleman's agreement between legislators on opposite sides of a question to withhold their votes. Generally, this involves an absent member who (1) wishes to have his position recorded and (2) wants to be sure his absence will not affect the outcome. A pair, while recorded in the Journal, is not taken into account in tallying a vote.

PASSAGE. Favorable floor action on a bill upon its third reading.

PER DIEM. Literally, per day; daily expense money paid members of the Legislature.

POINT OF ORDER. A statement by a member calling attention to an alleged breach of order or parliamentary procedure, upon which the presiding officer must rule.

POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE. A statement by a member not relevant to the pending business, such as a request to be recorded as voting "aye" or "nay" on a previous roll call, a protest against a newspaper article, or an invitation to a social gathering. There is a five minute limitation, by precedent, on such statement.

POSTPONE. To delay consideration of a measure until a specific legislative day or hour of the same day.

PREFILE. To introduce a bill prior to a regular session; the bill is numbered and informally referred to a standing committee at this point, and on the first legislative day it is read and formally referred to the same committee.

PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE. The Lieutenant Governor; in his absence, the President Pro Tem or any other designated Senator.

PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE. Literally, president "for a time"; elected from its membership by the Senate, he usually, but not necessarily, presides in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor.

PRESIDING. Administering the business of the Senate or House, controlling the order of business, referring bills, interpreting rules, voting only in case of a tie (in the Senate only), recognizing members to speak.

PRIVILEGE OF THE FLOOR. Permission to be in the legislative chambers as set out in the rules.

PUBLIC HEARING. Committee meeting open to the public, on a specific bill, with interested parties invited to testify.

QUORUM. The required number of members present to transact business.

READING CLERK. The member of the staff who assists the Secretary (or Clerk) by calling the roll, tabulating votes, reading bills, messages and resolutions, and otherwise assisting at the desk.

READING, FIRST. The reading of a bill at length (unless dispensed with by 2/3 vote, as is usually the case) upon introduction, after which the presiding officer refers same to an appropriate standing committee for study.

READING, SECOND. The reading of a bill when it is reported out of committee on any day subsequent to its first reading, along with announcement of committee action; the presiding officer then orders said bill placed on the calendar for the next legislative day.

READING, THIRD. The reading of a bill when it comes up for consideration on the calendar. It is at this point that amendments are considered and the bill is passed or defeated. If it is passed, it is then transmitted to the other house.

REAPPORTIONMENT. Re-division of the state into equal legislative districts based on the most recent census.

RECONSIDERATION. A process whereby a measure previously adopted or defeated can be reopened (within a strict time span) and again acted upon.

REFERENDUM. A method by which a measure adopted by the Legislature may be submitted to popular vote.

REGISTERS. A set of books kept in the Senate and House offices setting out by title all bills received in each house, with each action posted daily by register clerks. By the close of each session, the complete history of each bill is thus available chronologically. These registers become part of the archives.

REGULAR SESSION. In Alabama, the annual convening of the Legislature is for 30 legislative days within a span of 105 calendar days. In the first year of an administration, the session begins on the first Tuesday in March to allow the new Governor time to prepare the proposed budget. In the second and third years the session begins on the first Tuesday of February. The fourth year, being an election year, the Legislature convenes on the second Tuesday in January.

RESCIND. Annulment of an action previously taken.

RESOLUTION. A formal legislative document not having the binding effect of law, but expressing opinion,

SINE DIE. Adjournment "without day", that is, without designating a day to which the Legislature adjourns; final adjournment of a session.

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. The presiding officer of the House, elected from its membership by the House at each Organizational Session.

SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE. Speaker "for a time", or vice-speaker, also elected from its membership by the House at each Organizational Session. His duties are similar to those of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

SPECIAL ORDER CALENDAR. A list (in resolution form) of calendar bills to be given priority of consideration, regardless of their place on the calendar, upon adoption of said resolution. This procedure is often used near the end of a session when the calendar has grown to an unworkable size.

SPECIAL OR EXTRAORDINARY SESSION. A session, limited to 12 legislative days within 30 calendar days, called by the Governor for a specific purpose set out in his proclamation. Any measures not included in his call require a 2/3 majority for passage.

SPREAD UPON THE JOURNAL. Print at length and enter in the Journal any bill, petition, report, speech, etc.

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. This can be determined either by referring to the registers of either house (see REGISTERS), or by referring to the computer system, which also provides a constant update on all legislative action.

STATUTES. Individual laws which comprise the Code of Alabama.

STOP THE CLOCK. To extend the constitutional deadline of midnight on the last legislative day by pulling the plug of the electric clock in the Senate or House chamber. When this is done, it is primarily to allow the staff to complete the massive paper work required before sine die adjournment.

SUBSTITUTE. An amendment in the form of an entire bill. When adopted, a substitute becomes the bill.

SUSPEND THE RULES. To temporarily (and by unanimous consent) set aside the rule involved in an action for the sake of expediency.

SYNOPSIS. An informal summary (as opposed to the title) of a bill, required by rule to be attached to each bill, other than a local bill, upon introduction. This is usually in layman's rather than lawyer's language.

TAB SHEET (SENATE) OR JIMMY SHEET (HOUSE). A chronological "log" of all motions, bill actions, roll calls, and all other official floor action in each house, recorded by a clerk in the Senate or House chamber. It is from this record that the journal of each house is compiled.

TABLING. Laying on the table, or killing.

TIE VOTE. An equal yea-nay vote (such as 17 yeas, 17 nays), which in the Senate can be broken by the Lieutenant Governor.

TITLE OF BILL. The title, or caption, of a bill precedes the enacting clause and is an abbreviated, formal statement of the subject matter contained therein.

VETO. The action of the Governor in disapproval of a measure; on its return to the Legislature, each house either sustains the veto or overrides it.

WITHOUT RECOMMENDATION. A report on a bill from a standing committee which returns a bill to the full house for consideration but without the endorsement of the committee.

Alabama State Legislature  |  Alabama State House
11 South Union Street  |  Montgomery, AL 36130
General Information: (334) 242-7800