Glossary of Legislative Terms - What is a Bill?

What is a Bill? What is a Filibuster?

Scales of Justice

What is a Bill?

In the legislative process, a bill is proposal that is the first step in creating a new law. Every bill is assigned a unique number that either begins with "HR" (to show the bill started in the House of Representatives) or "S" (to show it originated in the Senate).

Most bills never become law. To become a law, a bill must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then approved by the President.

What is a Filibuster?

A “filibuster” is when an extended debate other delay tactics are used by Senators to prevent a vote on a bill in the Senate. A filibuster brings action on all bills to a halt is usually reserved as a last-resort tactic.

The word filibuster is derived from a Dutch word for "freebooter," meaning "someone who took booty or loot." Originally the word was translated from Dutch into English as "flibutor," and then freebooter, before eventually becoming "filibuster." It become an informal term used in the Senate in the late nineteenth century.

Other tactics that can be used to initiate a filibuster include:

  • Adding unlimited amendments to a bill, despite germaneness (relating to the matter on-hand), and debating them all;
  • Continually holding onto the floor and only yielding to supporters; and
  • Asking that a quorum call be in effect, which keeps senators there at all hours.

What is the House Calendar? (House of Representatives)

The House Calendar lists all public bills to be considered by the House of Representatives, however, the House Calendar does not contain bills that address money.

(Bills that are address money are listed on the House “Union Calendar.”)

What is the Private Calendar (House of Representatives)

The Private Calendar is called on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month. It contains a list of bills that are to be considered by the House of Representatives.

What is the Union Calendar (House of Representatives Bills)

The Union Calendar lists all bills to be considered by the House of Representatives that address money.

These bills are classified as either being “appropriations bills” or “bills raising revenue.”

The Union Calendar does not contain bills that address public issues. (Bills that address public issues are listed on the “House Calendar.”)

What is the Corrections Calendar (House of Representatives)

The Corrections Calendar contains a list of bills that focus on changing laws, rules, and regulations that are judged to be outdated or unnecessary. These bills are considered by the House of Representatives and debate is limited to one hour. For a bill on the Corrections Calendar to pass the House of Representatives, a 3/5 majority vote of those present is required. The bills that make this list are selected by the Speaker of the House in consultation with the Minority.