Law Talk

Matt Dunlap cartoon

"Hey, kids - here's a list of 50 terms that lawmakers use in Augusta all the time. And you'll hear many of them in Person to Person: Legislating Maine. Read the definitions. How many of them do you already know?"


Act A bill passed or enacted by both chambers that becomes a public law.
Allocation A legislative grant of funds, other than from the General Fund.
Amend  To alter or modify a law or bill.
Appropriation  A legislative grant from the General Fund for a specific purpose.
Bicameral  Literally, having two rooms The term is used to refer to Legislatures having two chambers: the House and the Senate.
Biennium  Two-year period of the Legislature.
Bill A proposal for a law.
Body One chamber of the Legislature.
Budget  An estimate of funds to be received and spent for a fiscal year.
Calendar  The printed agenda of each chamber, printed daily during the session.
Caucus A conference of members of a legislative group to decide on policies or strategies; most commonly for members of a political party.
Chair Presiding officer of group. The chair of the Senate is the President; in the House, the chair is the Speaker.
ChamberRefers to either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
ClotureDeadline for submitting completed requests for bills during a legislative session.
Code A compilation of laws in force, arranged by subject matter.
Committee A group of people delegated to examine a certain subject or proposals.
Committee, joint standing  Joint standing committees are established by joint rule to deal with legislative measures in specific subject areas.
Concur Agree; when both chambers have acted similarly.
Constitutional Resolution A proposal for a change to the Constitution of Maine which, if passed, goes to the voters for their approval.
Debate Formal argument and discussion in a chamber.
Enactment The legislative action after engrossment and is the last step before a measure is signed by the President and Speaker and sent to the Governor for approval. Measures that reach this stage are by convention referred to as finally passed.
Engrossed Literally, printed. A printed bill with all its adopted amendments.
First reading  Initial reading of a measure on the floor of a chamber that is followed by a second reading. There is no floor debate on a bill in its first reading if a favorable committee report has been accepted.
Fiscal note Information of the financial impact of a bill.
Fiscal year The 12-month period from July 1st to June 30th for which the budget is formulated.
Floor Figuratively, within the chamber while the chamber is in session.
Governor The executive head of a state in the United States , elected by the people in that state to serve for a four year term.
Hearing, public Procedure whereby interested members of the public are invited to testify before a committee on a proposed bill.
House of Representatives  One of the two chambers of the Maine Legislature that are vested with the Legislative power of the State. The House is composed of 151 representatives elected for two-year terms.
Initiative A legislative proposal originated by citizens. The Legislature has the option of enacting the measure as proposed or sending it out to voters.
Law Measure passed by both chambers and approved by the Governor or otherwise finally approved (e.g., by overriding a Governor's veto).
L.D. (Legislative Document)  A bill in its printed form, that is given a number by the Clerk of the House or the Secretary of the Senate. There are other types of legislative papers that are also legislative documents.
Legislative Council  The legislative body having authority over operation of the Legislature, including approval of bills for introduction. The Council is composed of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House and the top two Republican and top two Democratic leaders from both the House and the Senate.
Lobbyist Generally, a person or group who opposes or supports the enactment of bills by representing the support or opposition over time through buttonholing legislators in the lobby of the state capital and by testifying at public hearings.
Majority Leader A member of either chamber selected by members of the majority party in that chamber to act as their spokesperson and caucus leader.
Minority Leader A member of either chamber selected by members of the minority party in that chamber to act as their spokesperson and caucus leader.
Reference Procedure whereby bills are sent to committees for consideration.
Referendum Popular vote on proposals; may be initiated by the people ( people's initiative) or by the Legislature. Referenda may be binding or only advisory, statewide or at a lower level of government.
Redistricting The decennial redrawing of legislative district lines following a census.
Report, committee  Recommendations by a committee that some action should be taken on a measure. Possible reports are: Ought to Pass; Ought to Pass as Amended by Committee Amendment; Ought to Pass in New Draft; Ought Not to Pass; Referral to Another Committee.
Rules Rules of parliamentary procedure either in committee or on the floor.
Second Reading  The second reading of a bill, after which, if approved, it is passed to be engrossed.
Senate One of the two chambers of the Maine Legislature. The Senate is required under the Constitution of Maine to consist of an odd number of members, between 31 and 35 members who serve two-year terms.
Session Period during which the Legislature assembles and carries on its business. There are two regular sessions in each biennium. During the first regular session, a legislator may submit legislation on any topic. In the second regular session, the Constitution of Maine limits bills to budgetary matters, bills in the Governor's call, direct initiatives, legislation derived from committee studies during the interim and legislation of an emergency nature. The Legislative Council reviews each legislator's requests for legislation in the second regular session to determine whether it meets constitutional requirements.
Speaker of the House The presiding officer of the House of Representatives elected by the members of the House.
Sponsor  A legislator who proposes a bill to the Legislature.
Statute General term for acts of the Legislature.
Table To delay action. A measure may be tabled until later in the day, another date or an indefinite time.
Veto Disapproval of an act, typically by the Governor.
Work Session Meeting of a legislative committee to discuss committee business or to work on bills.