Absentee ballot: A vote cast by someone who is unable to visit the official polling place on Election Day. This type of vote is normally submitted by mail. Increasing the ease of access to absentee ballots are seen by many as one way to improve voter turnout, though some jurisdictions require that a valid reason, such as sickness or travel, be given before a voter can participate in an absentee ballot.

Act: A type of law pertaining to a specific situation.

Action code: A compilation of laws and its categorization according to subject matter

Amendment: A modification to the text of legislation

Apportionment: Establishment of legislative districts for elections and the census

Appropriation: Funds allocated for various government departments

At-large election: Candidates represent the entire population such as a city, county, or country instead of a single district. In the U.S., states with smaller populations practice at-large elections.

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Bicameral: A legislative branch with two houses, both checking the other’s power. The U.S. has a bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Biennium: A two-year period of legislative activity

Bill: A draft of a law presented to a legislature for enactment. If the legislature passes the bill, the draft becomes a law.

Bipartisan: Being affiliated with the representatives of or both political parties themselves

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Carry-over legislation: Legislation that is held from the first year of a legislative biennium to the second year

Caucus: A meeting of members, typically from the same political party but could be on the basis of gender, race, or geographic location

CBO: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a federal agency within the U.S. legislative branch that reports budget and economic information to Congress.

CDC: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC researches and develops the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability in the U.S. and internationally by focusing on infectious diseases, food borne pathogens, environmental health, and occupational safety.

Censure: An official reprehension by a legislative body to an elected official for inappropriate actions while in office.

Chair: A presiding officer.

Chamber: Official room for the meeting of a legislative body. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives chambers are on opposite ends of the Capitol building.

Checks and Balances: Separation of powers to allow different branches to check each other’s power to keep the balance of government. In the U.S., the judicial, legislative, and executive branches check one another in multiple ways.

Cloture: When 60 out of 100 senators agree to end a filibuster or a hold.

CMS: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that administers the Medicare program. The CMS works with state governments to supervise Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and health insurance standards.

Committee: A body of legislators delegated by a legislative body to consider and report on a specific topic. Having multiple committees allows for quicker and simultaneous completion of legislative work. Committees often analyze the implications and effect of a bill and provide a recommendation to the entire Congress. U.S. federal and state legislatures have many committees such as the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.

Committee of the Whole: An entire legislative house sitting as a committee to consider bills or subjects.

Conference Committee: In the U.S., a committee appointed to reconcile the different versions of a bill present in both chambers.

Confirmation: Approval by the Senate of gubernatorial or presidential appointments.

Congress: The lawmaking body of a nation. In the U.S., the congress is a bicameral, or two chamber, legislature and consists of publicly elected representatives in the House of Representatives and Senate. Both the House and the Senate needs to pass a bill to send to the President for confederation.

Congressional Briefing: Meetings held by people who brief Congress on a specific topic to inform their vote on related legislature. Although Representatives and Senators do not attend most congressional briefings, Hill staffers do and report back.

Constituent: A citizen that resides within the elected legislator’s district.

Constitution: A document outlining the body’s fundamental principles, the rights of the people, and the powers and duties of the government.

Council: A body of people elected to vote on and manage the affairs of a city, county, or other municipal district.

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Demonstration: A mass expression of public sentiments such as a protest.

Dissent: A negative vote or a difference of opinion.

District: The separation of a state into multiple districts. Each district is represented by an elected legislator.

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Election: Selecting a person to fill an office through popular vote.

Electoral College: Present in the U.S. election for president and vice president. The population votes for appointed representatives, electors, to vote for a particular party’s candidate.

Enacted: When a bill is made into a law.

Engross: The process of updating a bill while it is in the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Enroll: Modifying a bill that was passed by houses into its final format.

Executive Order: A command for the governor or president to the executive branch that was not voted on by the legislature.

Executive Session: A portion of the U.S. Senate assembling to delegate on treaties, federal executive officials nominations, and other items introduced by the President.

Expunge: The removal of specific portions that may be objectionable or incorrect from the journal.

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FDA: The Food and Drug Administration is a federal agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that serves to protect and promote public health. It has the ability to pass regulations and monitor the developments of food safety, tobacco products, medications, animal and veterinary products, medical devices, biopharmaceuticals, and vaccines.

Federal: In the U.S., the federal government has legislative, executive, and judicial branches that represents all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and its territories.

Filibuster: An extended debate given by one or more members of the legislature to delay or prevent a vote on a bill.

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Hearing: A public discussion on a bill, usually organized by a congressional committee.

HHS: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is a Cabinet-level department, meaning that the head of the HHS is part of the advisory body to the President. It is responsible for administering health, welfare, and health information technology programs that protects the health and well-being of all Americans.

Hold: U.S. Senator(s) prevent a motion from reaching the Senate floor. If the Senator(s) privately request a hold from their party leadership, it is called an anonymous or secret hold.

House: A lawmaking assembly. The U.S. House of Representatives is the larger of the two chambers in the U.S. Congress. A fixed number of 435 representatives are elected from their own congressional districts across the 50 states. Congressional districts are organized by population; California has 53 congressional districts and 53 representatives, states such as Alaska and Vermont have only one representative.

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Impeachment: Procedure to remove a public official from office due to possible misconduct.

Interim: The interval between legislative sessions.

Interim Committee: A committee to examine a topic between legislative sessions to report in the next session.

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Journal: An official chronological record of the actions taken in a chamber.

Jurisdiction: The official power to make legal decisions and judgements.

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Law: A general system of rules a city, county, or country acknowledges that regulates behavior and may be enforced with penalties.

Legislation: The act of making or enacting laws, or the proposed or passed law.

Legislator: An elected member to serve in a legislative body.

Legislature: A body that, in the U.S., is elected to deliberate, create, modify, or repeal the laws for the city, county, or country it represents.

Line item veto: A veto of a specific item in a bill.

Lobby: The act of persuading legislators to introduce or vote for measures in their interest.

Local: Cities, counties, and municipalities have local governments that regulate and enforce laws that only apply within its region. Local governments have city councils, which are the governing body. If a local law conflicts with a state law, the state law supersedes.

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Majority: A voting method that elects the candidate that receives the majority of the votes, at least 51 percent.

Markup: The process of making final changes in a legislative bill.

Measure: A general term for a bill, memorial, or resolution.

Motion: A proposal from a legislative member that the Senate or House should take a certain action. Common motions are adjourning a session or voting on a measure.

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NCI: The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NCI maintains the U.S. National Cancer Program and conducts and supports research and training related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. It also assists various activities that will provide supportive care of cancer patients and their families.

NIH: The National Institutes of Health is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that conducts biomedical and public health research.

Nonpartisan: Having no affiliation with the representatives of or both political parties themselves.

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Official Title: A concise statement of the subject and the contents of a bill.

Open Session: When Congress convenes and the session is open to the public.

Original Bill: A bill before amendments are made in Congress.

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Party: A group of people with similar political goals and opinions that work to get candidates from their party elected into public office. The Democrat and Republican parties are the two main political parties in the U.S.

Patron: The person who presents a bill for consideration.

Petition: A formal request submitted by an individual or a group to the legislature. Common petitions include proposals to create, change, or vote on a law.

Plurality: A voting method that elects the candidate that receives that most votes, the candidate does not necessarily need to have the majority vote.

Policy: An overall plan, principle, or guideline pursued by the organization.

Primary: A preliminary election in which voters elect a couple of party nominations for the general election. Most states require an official party affiliate in order to vote in a primary election.

Pro Tempore: A designated officer acting in the absence of the presiding officer.

Proclamation: An official declaration to make an issue known. Presidential proclamations are policy announcements from the president.

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Quorum: A majority of members of the group described.

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Ranking Member: The second-most senior member of a committee from the majority party.

Ratify: To approve.

Reapportionment: Redrawing legislative district boundaries to provide better equality of representation.

Recall: The public calling for a trial on an elected official to be removed from office.

Referendum: Recently passed legislation by the legislature referred to the voters. The voters can vote to enact or reject the referendum.

Repeal: When a legislative action is revoked.

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Select Committee: An often temporary committee organized for a specific purpose.

Senate: A lawmaking assembly. The U.S. Senate is the smaller of the two chambers in the U.S. Congress. Each state elects two senators to represent the entire state and have unique powers that the House of Representatives does not have such as ratification of treaties and the confirmation of federal executive officials.

Speaker: The title of the elected presiding officer of the House of Representatives. Some states use this title for its Senate chamber as well.

Special Order: To set consideration of a bill for a specific, later time.

Special Session: A meeting of the legislature called by the legislature, governor, or president to discuss specific matters.

Sponsor: A legislator who introduces a bill or resolution and can be joined by other legislators, known as cosponsors.

Standing Committee: A permanent committee that meets regularly.

State Government: Typically, state governments mirror the federal government; its governing bodies consist of legislative, executive, and judicial branches instead of a city council. If a state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law supersedes.

Statute: The laws of a country that are passed by the legislative body.

Subcommittee: Congressional subcommittees typically consist of half the members or less than the committee it is a part of and are assigned to review a specific topic and report back to the full committee. For example, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has a Subcommittee on Children and Families. Subcommittees play a vital role, committees refer most bills Congress votes on to subcommittees.

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VA: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is a federal Cabinet-level agency, the head of the VA is part of the advisory body to the President, that provides healthcare services to eligible military veterans. The VA also maintains non-healthcare services such as disability compensation, home loans, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, and education assistance.

Veto: In the federal government, an action by the President to disagree with the approval of a measure.

Veto Override: The legislature voting to pass a bill despite the governor or president’s veto.

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This content is intended to provide helpful health information to the general public. This content is not intended as medical advice for individual problems. Global Liver Institute, including its board of directors and staff personnel, specifically disclaim all responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the GLI content.


Glossary. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://www.congress.gov/help/legislative-glossary

Glossary. (2017, January 27). Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://www.senate.gov/reference/glossary.htm

Glossary of Legislative Terms. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/glossary.aspx

W. (n.d.). GLOSSARY OF LEGISLATIVE TERMS. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/about-state-legislatures/glossary-of-legislative-terms.aspx

Glossary of Statutory, Legislative and Regulatory Terms. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2018, from https://www.genome.gov/15014431/glossary-of-statutory-legislative-and-regulatory-terms/

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