Frequently asked questions

Terms and definitions

The House of Representatives consists of 110 members who are elected by the qualified electors of districts having approximately 77,000 to 91,000 residents. Representatives are elected to two-year terms and are limited to serve three terms. Legislative districts are drawn on the basis of population figures obtained through the federal decennial census.

The State Legislature enacts the laws of Michigan; levies taxes and appropriates funds from money collected for the support of public institutions and the administration of the affairs of State Government; proposes amendments to the State Constitution, which must be approved by a majority vote of the electors; and considers legislation proposed by initiatory petitions.

The legislature also provides oversight of the executive branch of government through the administrative rules and audit processes, committees, and the budget process; advises and consents, through the Senate, on gubernatorial appointments; and considers proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

The majority of the Legislature's work, however, entails lawmaking. Through a process defined by the State Constitution, statute, and legislative rules, the Legislature considers thousands of bills (proposed laws) during each two-year session. Check out the Michigan State Legislature online for more information.

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Administrative Rule
A regulation, statement, standard, or policy, developed by a state agency, enforced or administered by the agency. An administrative rule has the force and effect of law.
Advise and Consent
Power vested in the Michigan Senate by the Constitution to give its advice and consent to the Governor in making appointments.
Amendment
Proposed change, addition or deletion to a bill. Amendments may be offered by individual legislators or by a committee.
Appropriation
An authorization to spend state and federal funds. Probably the most important function of the Legislature, appropriating money is carried out by passing bills which authorize units of government to spend money for specified purposes.

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Bicameral
A two-house Legislature, in contrast to a unicameral Legislature, or a Legislature consisting of one house. In the United States, only Nebraska has a unicameral Legislature.
Bill
A proposed law introduced in the Legislature for consideration. A bill can be a new law, a change in a law, or a repeal of a law.
Bipartisan
In a two-party system (such as in the United States), bipartisan refers to any bill, act, resolution, or any other action of a political body in which both of the major political parties are in agreement.
Boilerplate
Conditions and stipulations governing the expenditure of money within an appropriation bill.

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Calendar Book
Also known as the Blue Book or the e-Blue Book. The book contains all bills on the Senate or House calendar for any particular legislative session day, and includes master bills with sheets of new amendments, proposed amendments, and substitute bills. Most legislative offices maintain a calendar book, often electronically, to follow each daily session of the Legislature.
Caucus
A group of legislators with a common interest. Although most commonly referred to as the Democratic Caucus or the Republican Caucus, the term is used to describe many groups of legislators. For example: the Detroit Caucus, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, and the Women’s Caucus. As a verb, the term “to caucus” means to have a closed meeting of a group of persons belonging to some party or faction.
Caucus Chairs
Direct the party caucus meetings with other House members of the same party.
Caucus Secretaries
Assist party leaders during a caucus meeting.
Caucus Whips
Assist party leaders with caucus functions.
Conference Committee
A committee of legislators assigned the responsibility to negotiate the differences between versions of bills passed by the Senate and House. A conference committee is comprised of three members from the Senate and three from the House. The committee attempts to work out a compromise that is then submitted to each house for approval.
Constituent
A resident of a legislator’s district.
Constitution
The fundamental rules and principles by which a state is organized and governed, usually in the form of a written document.

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Daily Calendar
the listing of bills and other business items to be considered by the Senate or House. The calendars are published for each session day, and items are considered in the order listed unless changes are made during a session. The calendar also contains a list of future committee meetings and public hearings.
Democracy
A form of government to which the supreme power is vested in and exercised directly by the people or by their representatives elected under a free electoral system.
District
A political-geographical division of the state from which a Senator or Representative is elected. There are 38 Senate districts and 110 House districts.

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Elector
An individual qualified to vote in an election. In Michigan, an elector must be a citizen of the United States who has attained the age of 18 years, who has resided in the state six months, and who meets the requirements of local residence provided by law.
Enrollment
The process of preparing a bill in the form as finally adopted by the Legislature for presentation to the Governor. Enrollment involves incorporating amendments into bills, checking for
technical errors, and rechecking amended bills with existing laws.
Executive Order
A document issued by the Governor relative to changes in the organization of the executive branch or in the assignment of functions among its units or a proposed reduction in expenditures. Other Executive Orders are issued under the Governor’s emergency power. Some are issued to establish various special committees, while others are developed to deal with management problems.

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House of Representatives
The legislative body, at the state or federal level, in which districts are allocated seats according to their population. In Michigan, members serve two years.

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Joint Committee
A committee of the Legislature composed of both Senate and House members.
Journal
A record of actions and events occurring during a legislative session. Separate journals are published each session day by the Senate and the House. They contain attendance and voting records, reports, messages, amendments and statements in support of or opposition to proposed legislation. However, the journals do not include all of the debate that occurred during a session.

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Lobbyist
A person, often acting as an agent for an organized group or interest, who seeks to bring about the passage or defeat of legislative bills, or to influence the contents.

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Minority Leader
Elected by the minority caucus. There also is an Assistant Minority Leader.
Minority Floor Leader
Directs activities of the minority party on the floor of the House. There also is an Assistant Minority Floor Leader.

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Nonpartisan
Not supporting or controlled by a political party or special interest group.

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Petition
A request to a public official that seeks to correct a wrong or to influence public policy. Informal citizen petitions usually include a statement of what should be done and signatures of friends, neighbors or others showing support for this position.
Public Hearing
Public discussion and testimony on a bill which may be scheduled by a committee.

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Record Roll Call
A vote in which each member’s “yea” or “nay” (“yes” or “no”) vote is recorded. Roll call votes are taken using buttons at the desk of each of the members, with the display boards on the floor indicating a “yes” vote with green and a “no” vote with red.
Regular Session
The one-year period during which a Legislature carries on business. The State Constitution requires that each regular session start on the second Wednesday in January at 12 noon.
Resolution
A document expressing the will of the House or the Senate (or both, in the case of concurrent resolutions). Resolutions are used to conduct certain legislative business.
Rules
Both the House and the Senate operate under their own set of rules, which specify the procedures of session, including the actions involved in each stage of the lawmaking process. For matters involving both chambers (such as conference committees), there are Joint Rules of the Senate and House of Representatives.

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Sine Die
A Latin phrase that means “without day” or “without a day” set to reconvene. The State Constitution requires that the Legislature adjourn sine die as the final adjournment each year of a regular session. Adjournment must be at 12 noon on a day set by concurrent resolution.
Speaker of the House
The presiding officer; appoints committees, selects employees, presides during session and handles administrative functions. The Speaker is elected by a majority of the members voting.
Speaker Pro Tempore
Performs duties of the Speaker in the Speaker’s absence. The Associate Speakers Pro Tempore assist with the responsibilities of the Speaker Pro Tempore. These officers are elected by a majority of the members voting.
Special Committee
A committee created by resolution or appointed by a legislative leader on a temporary basis to investigate or study a specific situation. A special committee may consist of members of one or both chambers of the Legislature.
Standing Committee
A permanent committee comprised of Senate or House members to handle specific areas of legislation, such as education, environmental affairs, transportation, social services, or health policy. A few of the major functions of a standing committee are to review and modify legislation and to determine which bills should receive consideration by the full Senate or House.
State Officers Compensation Commission
A State Constitutionally created seven-member commission responsible for recommending the salary and expense allowances of members of the Legislature, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and the Justices of the Supreme Court.
Subcommittee
A part of a larger committee that is given responsibilities by the full committee.
Sunset
Laws that include provisions for automatic expiration at the end of a specified period of time. Sunset laws typically require a reauthorization of programs by the Legislature at stipulated intervals, such as five years. Without reauthorization, the program lapses or other conditions set forth in the sunset provision take effect.
Suspend the Rules
A timesaving device to bypass some of the steps of routine legislative actions.

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Table a Motion
To remove something from consideration for the time being.

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Voice Vote
A vote taken by members responding “yea” or “nay” (“yes” or “no”) in unison, with no recording of individual votes. These are generally used on routine business.
Vote
A vote in which each member’s “yea” or “nay” (“yes” or “no”) vote is recorded. Roll call votes are taken using buttons at the desk of each of the members, with the display boards on the floor indicating a “yes” vote with green and a “no” vote with red.

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