Local Legislative Lingo

Part of the purpose of this site is not only to journal my experience as a Selectwoman and encourage others to run for office, but to help teach others as I teach myself. As I embark on this new journey I am learning a lot of new terms. Perhaps you’ll find this useful as well!

Abatement (in the tax sense) –  A reduction of or exemption from taxes granted by a government for a specified period, usually to encourage certain activities such as investment in capital equipment, or, in the case I saw it, to help ease the burden for someone who is struggling greatly and cannot afford their tax payments. Abatements must be applied for.

By-Election – also spelled bye-elections (known as special elections in the United States, and bypolls in India), are used to fill elected offices that have become vacant between general elections

Caucus — An informal meeting of a group of the members; most commonly based on political party affiliation, but may have other bases, such as gender, race, geographic location or specific issue.

Constituent — A citizen residing within the district of a legislator.

Executive SessionA session excluding from the chamber or committee room all persons other than members and essential staff personnel.

General Election – an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. These are usually held for a nation’s primary legislative body, as distinguished from byelections and local elections.

House of Representatives – the lower chamber in many state legislatures

Legislature – a deliberative body of persons, usually elective, who are empowered to make, change, or repeal the laws of a country or state; the branch of government having the power to make laws, as distinguished from the executive and judicial branches of government. The Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as various committees compose the legislature.

Local Elections – these take place to select office-holders in local government, such as mayors and councilors. Elections to positions within a city or town are often known as “municipal elections”.

Ordinance – a piece of legislation enacted by a municipal authority.

Primary Election – an election used either to narrow the field of candidates for a given elective office or to determine the nominees for political parties in advance of a general election.

Selectman – a member of the local government board of a New England town.

Senate – an assembly or council of citizens having the highest deliberative functions in a government, especially a legislative assembly of a state or nation.

Warrant – In New England, a warrant is a document issued by the Board of Selectmen to call a town meeting. Warrants are essentially a list of agenda items to be voted on by those citizens who attend the town meeting.