A glossary is a collection of specialized words and their meanings.
This glossary will help you understand some of the words used by the House of Representatives.





Per diem












Act: A bill passed by both the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate

Adjournment: The end of a legislative session, a day’s session or a committee meeting 

Adopt: To vote to accept 

Amendment: A proposal to change the original terms of a bill 

Appropriation: Authorization to spend state funds 

Bicameral: Consisting of two houses (House and Senate) 

Bipartisan: Having support of both the Republicans and Democrats 

Bill: A draft of a proposed law 

Brass rail: Runs behind the law row of members’ desks just below the visitors’ gallery; members standing behind the brass rail are not on the House floor and cannot speak in debate or vote on a question 

Budget: A bill that states how much money will be spent on government programs and services 

Calendar: A list of bills awaiting action 

Caucus: A meeting of members of a group, usually but not always a political party, where plans are made concerning issues and agendas (used as a verb it means to have a meeting) 

Chair: A legislator who presides over a committee meeting or a session 

Chamber: The room in which the House of Representatives meets 

Clerk of the House of Representatives: The person designated by the House to assist the members in the process of enacting laws and to record that history

Committee: A group of representatives appointed by the presiding officer to consider an issue or question and to submit a report on its recommendations for action by the House 

Compromise: Settle differences of opinion through discussion 

Constituent: A citizen who resides in the district of a legislator 

Constitution: The written instrument embodying the fundamental principles of the state that establishes power and duties of the government and guarantees certain rights to the people 

Convene: To meet in formal legislative session 

Debate: To argue for and against the merits of a bill 

Decorum: Appropriate behavior and conduct 

District: That area of the state represented by a legislator; who must live in the district he/she represents 

Gallery: The seating area for visitors located above the House floor on the balcony 

Governor: The highest ranking state official, elected every four years 

Journal: The official record of the proceedings of the House of Representatives 

Law: The final product of the legislative process is a rule that all the people of a society must obey; it is the end result of the introduction of a bill, its passage by both houses and its approval by the governor (or the overriding of his/her veto by the legislature) and its recording by the secretary of state 

Legislator: A member of the legislature 

Lobbyist: A person who represents himself or herself, an individual, organization or entity, before the legislature; seeking to bring about the passage or defeat of legislative bills or to influence their content 

Mace: The House symbol of authority, peace, order and respect for the law; it is made of carved mahogany capped by a brass globe engraved with the Pennsylvania coat of arms and topped by an American eagle 

Mace bearer: This official precedes the speaker to the House rostrum before each day’s session, carrying the mace and at the end of a session, rises, removes the mace from its special pedestal and ceremoniously escorts the speaker from the chamber 

Majority party: The political party having the most seats in the House of Representatives 

Members: 203 state representatives elected for a two-year term by  Pennsylvania residents; a representative must be a U.S. citizen at least 21 years of age, a Pennsylvania resident for at least four years and a resident of the legislative district for at least one year before the general election 

Minority party: The political party having the least number of seats in a house 

Motion: A proposal, usually oral, made to the presiding officer and relating to procedure or action before a legislative body 

Murals: The House contains a colorful panorama of Pennsylvania history in the murals of Edwin Austin Abbey; the most commanding of the series hangs behind the speaker’s rostrum 

Oath of Office: An oath or vow taken by a public official prior to taking up his or her official duties 

Order of Business: The defined routine of procedure in the legislative body each day, it can be deviated from only by a waiver of the rules 

Override: To pass a bill after the governor has vetoed it; this requires a two-thirds vote of each house 

Pages: Young men and women who deliver messages, distribute paperwork and run errands for members 

Passage: Favorable action on a measure before the legislature 

Per diem: Daily expense allowance allowed for legislators when they are in session 

Point of Order: Members use this phrase to question a procedure at any time during a debate, even if it means interrupting someone who is speaking 

Quorum: The number of members required for the conduct of business in the House 

Recess: A temporary pause in the proceedings 

Repeal: To delete

Roll call boards: Large tally boards flash on opposite walls of the House, reflecting in alphabetical order how members voted; members vote at their desks by pressing green or red buttons which light the respective “yea” and “nay” columns on the boards 

Rules: Provisions for the procedure, organization, officers and committees of each house of the legislature 

Seating arrangement: The chambers are divided so that members of each party sit together on a specified side of the center aisle 

Sergeant at Arms: The person in each house who is responsible for the security of the legislative house and the maintenance of that house’s property 

Session: The period during which the legislature meets 

Sine die: Latin phrase for “without day” being set for reconvening; final adjournment 

Speaker of the  House: The presiding officer of the House who is designated as speaker by the majority party and then elected by the full membership of the house for a term of two years 

Sponsor: Legislator who introduces a bill 

Term of office: The period of time for which a person is elected to serve in an office 

Veto: Formal disapproval of a measure by the governor 

Vote: A decision on a question, either affirmative or negative 

Whips: Assistant floor leaders who act as links between their party members and majority and minority leaders, keeping them informed and encouraging their votes along party lines