State legislature (United States)

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A state legislature in the United States is the legislative body of any of the 50 U.S. states. The formal name varies from state to state. In 25 states, the legislature is simply called the Legislature, or the State Legislature, while in 19 states, the legislature is called the General Assembly. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the legislature is called the General Court, while North Dakota and Oregon designate the legislature the Legislative Assembly.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.

Contents

Composition

Every state except Nebraska has a bicameral legislature, meaning that the legislature consists of two separate legislative chambers or houses. In each case the smaller chamber is called the Senate and is usually referred to as the upper house. This chamber typically, but not always, has the exclusive power to confirm appointments made by the governor and to try articles of impeachment. (In a few states, a separate Executive Council, composed of members elected from large districts, performs the confirmation function.) Members of the smaller chamber represent more citizens and usually serve for longer terms than members of the larger chamber, generally four years. In 41 states, the larger chamber is called the House of Representatives. Five states designate the larger chamber the Assembly and three states call it the House of Delegates. Members of the larger chamber usually serve for terms of two years. The larger chamber customarily has the exclusive power to initiate taxing legislation and articles of impeachment.

Nebraska U.S. state in the United States

Nebraska is a state that lies in both the Great Plains and the Midwestern United States. It is bordered by South Dakota to the north; Iowa to the east and Missouri to the southeast, both across the Missouri River; Kansas to the south; Colorado to the southwest; and Wyoming to the west. It is the only triply landlocked U.S. state.

A bicameral legislature has legislators in two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, fewer than half the world's national legislatures are bicameral.

Governor (United States) position of the head of the government of a state or territory of the United States

In the United States, a governor serves as the chief executive officer and commander-in-chief in each of the fifty states and in the five permanently inhabited territories, functioning as both head of state and head of government therein. As such, governors are responsible for implementing state laws and overseeing the operation of the state executive branch. As state leaders, governors advance and pursue new and revised policies and programs using a variety of tools, among them executive orders, executive budgets, and legislative proposals and vetoes. Governors carry out their management and leadership responsibilities and objectives with the support and assistance of department and agency heads, many of whom they are empowered to appoint. A majority of governors have the authority to appoint state court judges as well, in most cases from a list of names submitted by a nominations committee.

Prior to the United States Supreme Court decisions Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), the basis of representation in most state legislatures was modeled on that of the U.S. Congress: the state senators represented geographical units, while members of the larger chamber represented population. In Reynolds v. Sims the Supreme Court decided upon the one man, one vote standard for state legislatures and invalidated representation based on geographical units regardless of population. (The ruling does not affect the U.S. Senate, because that chamber's makeup is prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.)

Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that that redistricting qualifies as a justiciable question, thus enabling federal courts to hear redistricting cases.

Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the electoral districts of state legislative chambers must be roughly equal in population. Along with Baker v. Carr (1962) and Wesberry v. Sanders (1964), it was part of a series of Warren Court cases that applied the principle of "one person, one vote" to U.S. legislative bodies.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress which, along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.

Nebraska originally had a bicameral legislature like the other states, but the lower house was abolished following a referendum, effective with the 1936 elections. The remaining unicameral (one-chamber) legislature is called the Nebraska Legislature, but its members are called state senators.

Nebraska Legislature Unicameral legislative body in Nebraska

The Nebraska Legislature is the supreme legislative body of the state of Nebraska. Its members are called "senators." The legislature is officially unicameral and nonpartisan, making Nebraska unique among U.S. states; no other state has either a unicameral or a nonpartisan legislative body. With 49 members, it is also the smallest legislature of any U.S. state.

Duties and influence

The Iowa State Capitol building, where the Iowa General Assembly convenes Iowa capitol.jpg
The Iowa State Capitol building, where the Iowa General Assembly convenes

As a legislative branch of government, a legislature generally performs state duties for a state in the same way that the United States Congress performs national duties at the national level. Generally, the same system of checks and balances that exists at the Federal level also exists between the state legislature, the state executive officer (governor) and the state judiciary, though the degree to which this is so varies from one state to the next.

A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, often a state.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.

The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in a country, state or an international community. The first legal systems of the world were set up to allow citizens to settle conflicts without violence.

During a legislative session, the legislature considers matters introduced by its members or submitted by the governor. Businesses and other special interest organizations often lobby the legislature to obtain beneficial legislation, defeat unfavorably perceived measures, or influence other legislative action. A legislature also approves the state's operating and capital budgets, which may begin as a legislative proposal or a submission by the governor.

Lobbying attempting to influence decisions of government officials

Lobbying, persuasion, or interest representation is the act of attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of officials, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying, which usually involves direct, face-to-face contact, is done by many types of people, associations and organized groups, including individuals in the private sector, corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or advocacy groups. Lobbyists may be among a legislator's constituencies, meaning a voter or bloc of voters within their electoral district; they may engage in lobbying as a business. Professional lobbyists are people whose business is trying to influence legislation, regulation, or other government decisions, actions, or policies on behalf of a group or individual who hires them. Individuals and nonprofit organizations can also lobby as an act of volunteering or as a small part of their normal job. Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying that has become influential.

Under the terms of Article V of the U.S. Constitution, state lawmakers retain the power to ratify Constitutional amendments which have been proposed by both houses of Congress and they also retain the ability to call for a national convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. After the convention has concluded its business 75% of the states will then be required to ratify what the convention has proposed. Under Article II, state legislatures choose the manner of appointing the state's presidential electors. Formerly, state legislatures appointed the U.S. Senators from their respective states until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913 required the direct election of Senators by the state's voters.

Lawmaking process

Generally, the legislative bodies and their committees use either Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure or an amended form thereof. [1] During official meetings, a professional parliamentarian is available to ensure that legislation and accompanying discussion proceed as orderly as possible without bias.

Beginnings

The lawmaking process begins with the introduction of a bill in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Bills may be introduced in either house, sometimes with the exception of bills increasing or decreasing revenue, which must originate in the House of Representatives. The order of business in each house provides a proper time for the introduction of bills.

Bills are usually assigned consecutive numbers, given in the order of their introduction, to facilitate identification. Usually a bill cannot become enacted until it has been read on a certain number of days in each house. Upon introduction, a bill is usually read by its title only, constituting the first reading of the bill. Because a bill is usually read by title only, it is important that the title give the members notice of the subject matter contained in the bill.

Committees

General information

As with other legislative bodies throughout the world, U. S. state legislatures operate mainly through committees when considering proposed bills. Thus, committee action is probably the most important phase of the legislative process. Most bills cannot be enacted into law until it has been referred to, acted upon by, and returned from, a standing committee in each house. Reference to committee usually follows the first reading of the bill.

Each committee is set up to consider bills relating to a particular subject.

Standing committees are charged with the important responsibility of examining bills and recommending action to the Senate or House. Often on days when a legislature is not in session, the committees of each house meet and consider the bills that have been referred to them to decide if the assigned bills should be reported for further action.

For most bills, the recommendations of the committee are followed, although either house is free to accept or reject the action of the committee. Bills reported favorably by a committee may be placed on a regular calendar (the agenda of the deliberative body).

Most of the work of the legislature is done by committees. The legislature as a whole relies on its committees to report out only those bills deserving the consideration of the entire house.

Through standing committees, each bill is addressed by a group of members who have special knowledge of its subject. Some members of the legislature have expert knowledge of particular subjects of legislation, and these members are usually placed on committees to take full advantage of this specialized knowledge. For this reason, the legislature often accepts the final recommendations of its standing committees. As has been noted, however, the legislature does not completely abdicate its responsibility for the consideration of pending bills. If the need arises, the members of either house can force a committee to take action on a bill, or they can ignore the committee's recommendations.[ citation needed ]

Pocket veto and discharge petitions

Across the country, pocket veto powers are not uncommon in state legislatures, which allows a committee to "kill" a bill, sometimes without even a public vote; in Colorado, the power was notably repealed in a citizen initiative constitutional amendment in 1988 driven by various reform groups. [2]

When a committee refuses to vote a bill out of committee, a discharge petition can be passed by the broader membership. The specifics vary from state to state; for example, in 2004, a report found that New York State "places more restrictions than any other state legislature on motions to discharge a bill from a committee", [3] which led to subsequent reforms. [4]

Post-committee

Reports of Committee

After a committee has completed work on a bill, it reports the bill to the appropriate house during the "reports of committees" in the daily order of business. Reported bills are immediately given a second reading. The houses do not vote on a bill at the time it is reported; however, reported bills are placed on the calendar for the next legislative day. This second reading is made by title only.

The regular calendar is a list of bills that have been favorably reported from committee and are ready for consideration by the membership of the entire house.

Third reading

Regardless of how a bill is placed on the calendar, once the bill is considered and adopted, this is called the third reading. It is at this third reading of the bill that the entire legislature gives consideration to its passage. At this time, the bill may be studied in detail, debated, amended, and read at length before final passage.

If the majority vote in favor of the bill, it is recorded as passed.

Transmission to second house

A bill that is passed in one house is transmitted, along with a formal message, to the other house. If the bill is not reported from committee or is not considered by the full house, the bill is defeated.

The house of origin, upon return of its amended bill, may take any one of several courses of action. It may concur in the amendment by the adoption of a motion to that effect; then the bill, having been passed by both houses in identical form, is ready for enrollment. Another possibility is that the house of origin may adopt a motion to non-concur in the amendment, at which point the bill dies. Finally, the house of origin may refuse to accept the amendment but request that a conference committee be appointed. The other house usually agrees to the request, and the presiding officer of each house appoints members to the conference committee.

Conference committees

A conference committee is often empaneled to discuss the points of difference between the two houses' versions of the same bill, and tries to reach an agreement between them so that the identical bill can be passed by both houses. If an agreement is reached and if both houses adopt the conference committee's report, the bill is passed. If either house refuses to adopt the report of the conference committee, a motion may be made for further conference. If a conference committee is unable to reach an agreement, it may be discharged, and a new conference committee may be appointed. Some highly controversial bills may be referred to several different conference committees. If an agreement is never reached in conference prior to the end of the legislative session, the bill is lost.

When a bill has passed both houses in identical form, it is then ready for transmittal to the governor.

Presentation to the governor

Once a bill reaches the governor, he or she may sign it, which completes its enactment into law. From this point, the bill becomes an act, and remains the law of the state unless repealed by legislative action or overturned by a court decision. If the governor does not approve of the bill, he or she may veto it. In the event of a veto, the governor returns the bill to the house in which it originated with a message explaining his or her objections and suggesting any amendments (if applicable) which might remove those objections. The bill is then reconsidered, and if a simple majority of the members of both houses agrees to the proposed executive amendments, it is returned to the governor, as he or she revised it, for his or her signature.

On the other hand, a simple majority of the members of each house can choose to approve a vetoed bill precisely as the legislature originally passed it, in which case it becomes a law over the governor's veto. This is in contrast to the practice in most states and the federal government, which require a two-thirds majority in both houses to override a governor's veto.

If the governor fails to return a bill to the legislative house in which it originated within a specified number of days after it was presented to him or her, it becomes a law without their signature.

The bills that reach the governor less than a specified number of days before the end of the session may be approved by him or her within ten days after adjournment. The bills not approved within that time do not become law. This is known as a "pocket veto". This is the most conclusive form of veto, for the legislature (having adjourned) has no chance to reconsider the vetoed measure.

Constitutional amendments

Sometimes what the legislature wishes to accomplish cannot be done simply by the passage of a bill, but rather requires amending the state constitution. Each state has specified steps intended to make it difficult to alter the constitution without the sufficient support of either the legislature, or the people, or both.

Aspects of the career of the state legislator

In most states, a new state legislature convenes in January of the odd-numbered year after the election of members to the larger chamber. The period during which the legislature remains in session varies. In states where the legislature is considered part-time, a session may last several months; where the legislature is considered full-time, the session may last all year, with periodic breaks for district work.

Currently, there are 7,383 state legislators in the United States. They are usually assisted by staff aides to help prepare and analyze legislation, to review and amend submitted budgets, and to help solve constituents' grievances with the state government.

Many state legislators meet every year at the National Conference of The Council of State Governments (CSG), headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, with offices in Washington, DC; New York City; Chicago; Atlanta; and Sacramento, and at the annual meetings of CSG's regions, The Southern Legislative Conference, The Midwestern Legislative Conference, the Eastern Regional Conference and CSG West, and at the Legislative Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which is headquartered in Denver, Colorado and has a lobbying office in Washington, D.C. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization funded by the private sector focusing on state legislatures, also has an annual meeting attracting many legislators.

Bill introduction limits

As of 2017, 24 of 99 chambers have limits on the number of bills that a legislator can introduce per year. [5]

Roll rates

When a bill passes based on votes mostly from the minority party and "moderate" members of a majority party, it is referred to as the majority being "rolled". [6] Political scientists study "roll rates" as a measure of the ability of the majority party to avoid votes on bills which a majority of the majority oppose. [6] An empirical analysis of state legislatures found that of the 99 studied, 53 had roll rates below 5% and 83 have roll rates below 10%. [6]

History

The first American legislature was formed in 1619 by the Virginia House of Burgesses. [7]

See also

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References

  1. National Conference of State Legislatures
  2. Cox, Gary W.; Kousser, Thad; McCubbins, Mathew D. (2010). "Party Power or Preferences? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from American State Legislatures". The Journal of Politics. 72 (3): 799–811. doi:10.1017/s0022381610000174. ISSN   0022-3816. JSTOR   10.1017/s0022381610000174.
  3. "The New York State Legislative Process: An Evaluation and Blueprint for Reform | Brennan Center for Justice". www.brennancenter.org. Retrieved 2019-06-09.
  4. "Testimony of Lawrence Norden Regarding New York State Senate Rules Reform | Brennan Center for Justice". www.brennancenter.org. Retrieved 2019-06-09.
  5. "Limiting Bill Introductions". www.ncsl.org. Retrieved 2019-09-04.
  6. 1 2 3 Anzia, Sarah F.; Jackman, Molly C. (2013-01-01). "Legislative Organization and the Second Face of Power: Evidence from U.S. State Legislatures". The Journal of Politics. 75 (1): 210–224. doi:10.1017/S0022381612000977. ISSN   0022-3816.
  7. Hodson, Tim; Tucker, Harvey J.; Garrett, John; Vanlandingham, Gary R.; Mo, Stephen Davis; Nv, Kathy Fosnaugh; Mo, Jackie Hord; Va, Bruce Jamerson (2005). JUDGING LEGISLATURES (PDF). Journal of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries.