Public Affairs: Glossary
A glossary of terms related to legislation and public policy.
Act: A bill that has been voted into law.
Amendment: An alteration by insertion or omission of words to a motion or a bill.
Appropriation: Money set aside by a legislative body for a specific purpose.
Appropriation bill: a legislative act proposing to authorize the use of public funds for a specified purpose.
Bicameral: A legislature consisting of two houses.
Bill: A piece of legislation under consideration by a legislative body.
Bipartisan: Refers to an effort endorsed by both political parties or a group composed of members of both political parties.
Bylaw: a standing rule governing the regulation of the internal affairs of a corporation or organization.
Cabinet: Presidential advisory body traditionally composed of the heads of the executive departments and other officers the President may choose.
Candidate: A person who is up for election.
Canvass: To examine votes/ballots for authenticity.
Caucus: A closed meeting of legislators of one's own party.
Chamber: The room where a legislative body meets.
Checks and balances: A system of government in which power is divided between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and these powers check and balance each other.
Clause: A numbered provision in a bill. Once a bill becomes an act, a clause is known as a section.
Closure: The procedure by which a debate may be terminated by a majority decision of the house, even though all members wishing to speak may not have had the opportunity to do so.
Cloture: The formal end to a debate or filibuster in the Senate requiring a three-fifths vote.
Coalition: An alliance between two or more political units in response to opposing forces.
Committee: A group of legislators who consider matters referred to them and report their findings to the larger legislative body.
Congress: The national law-making body of the United States of America, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives.
Constituent: Someone who elects a legislator.
Constituency: All the constituents of a certain legislator.
De facto: Something that is true in fact, if not in law.
Delegate: a person who is chosen to represent a political party at a political convention.
Demagogue: A person who gains power through emotional appeals to the people.
Diplomacy: A system of formal, regularized communication that allows states to peacefully conduct their business with each other.
Electoral College: The body which formally chooses the president of the United States.
Electorate: See constituency.
Filibuster: A device, used only in the Senate, to delay or prevent a vote by time-consuming talk. It can be stopped only by a 60-member vote of the senators present and voting.
Grassroots: Political activity that originates locally, or arises from the ground level.
House: refers to a legislative body (ex. the Senate).
Initiative: The initiation of legislative action on a particular issue by way of a voters petition.
Lame Duck Session: A term applied to the period between elections and the swearing in of new officeholders.
Legislation: A law or set of laws.
Lobbying: Communication with elected officials or their staff with the goal to educate and express a position on a pending piece of legislation.
Lobbyist: A person who lobbies.
Lower House: In legislative systems with more than one house, the one nearer to the electorate, by virtue of more frequent elections, more representatives, or a wider franchise.
Majority Leader: The elected leader of the party with the highest number of elected representatives in either the House or the Senate.
Minority Leader: The elected leader of the party with the second highest number of elected representatives in either the House or the Senate.
Nomination: The process by which a person applies to become a candidate for an election.
Nonpartisan: Something that does not have affiliation to a political party.
Ombudsman: person in a government agency to whom people can go to make complaints or explain problems with the programs or policies of the agency.
Omnibus: providing for many things at once; "an omnibus law.”
PAC (Political Action Committee): a committee formed by an organization or special-interest group to raise money to support candidates for office or to influence legislation. A PAC provides a legal means for corporations in the U. S. to support political candidates.
PAYGO: A term used to describe a financial policy by which capital projects are financed from current revenue in the operating budget rather than through borrowing.
Platform: The policies or plans that the candidates and parties say they will carry out if elected.
Politics: From the Greek word politikos meaning the art or science of government; concerned with winning and holding control over a government.
Pork or pork barrel: funding for government programs whose economic or service benefits are concentrated in a particular area but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers.
Quorum: The minimum number of members, specified by law, who must be present in a meeting of an organization before business can be conducted.
Referendum: A people’s vote which determines an issue of policy directly, distinct from political representatives making the decision.
Session: The period during which the legislature assembles and carries on its business.
Super PAC: Super PACs are a new kind of political action committee (see PAC) that developed out of a January 2010 Supreme Court decision. Super PACs are independent expenditure-only committees and may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals and spend unlimited sums to advocate for or against political candidates. Unlike a traditional PAC, a Super PAC is not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates nor to donate money directly to political candidates.
Unicameral: A legislature consisting of one house.
Upper House: In legislative systems with more than one house, the one with less frequent elections, fewer representatives, or a narrower franchise.
Veto: The authorized power of a President