Glossary of Terms

LEGISLATIVE TERMS– These are the type of phrases you might hear being tossed around in session, in reporting about the legislative process, or on our Bill Tracker.

Alive: When a bill is alive, it is actively being debated and voted on, and has the chance to pass all the way through the committees of both houses and become a law!

Budget proviso: A statement placed in some part of the budget that places limitations or conditions on funding.

Companion bills: You may have noticed that some bills have two names. Often, the same version of a bill may be introduced in both the House and the Senate as a way to speed up the legislative process.

Dead for the session: A bill can “die” during the legislative session for a variety of reasons—it may not have enough votes to pass through committee and into the next phase of the legislative process, or a committee may not like a particular bill and refuse to act on it at all, effectively killing the bill by doing nothing. A bill can even die on the House or Senate floor if it does not reach enough votes to be passed. Even though the vast majority of bills die at some point during the legislative process, they can always be revived in the future.

Directive: This is a motion by the Governor- most often to a specific state agency- that mandates the implementation of a certain action.

Executive session/Executive Action (Exec-ed): An Executive Session occurs within both the policy and fiscal committees, and is the time when lawmakers vote on whether to move the bill in question out of committee. The process that describes when a bill has been moved out of committee is the executive action- you may commonly hear lobbyists or advocacy groups saying that a bill they support has been “exec-ed,” which is simply shorthand for executive action.

Fiscal Committee: This is the second committee that discusses a bill. Discussion is limited to analyzing the budgetary impact of specific policy. The Fiscal Committee is known by two different names depending on which part of the Legislature you are in: in the Senate, it is called the Ways and Means Committee and in the House it is known as the Appropriations Committee.

Fiscal note: The fiscal note is a piece of information about the bill that explains the bill’s cost to the state’s budget.

Hearing: A legislative hearing is a time for lawmakers to hear about the merits or problems with a proposed bill. Hearings generally happen within the early stages of a bill’s journey through the House or Senate. Lawmakers may hear testimony from researchers, advocacy groups, or community members about how this bill’s passage would effect their lives or communities.

Legislative session: The legislative session is the period of time when lawmakers actively meet every day, hear arguments from policy and advocacy groups (such as Poverty Action!) and debate and vote on bills in committee and on the floor. Washington State legislative sessions follow a biennial pattern- on even-numbered years, they meet for 60 days, and on odd-numbered years, they meet for 105 days (the state budget is discussed and redrawn during odd-numbered years, which is why the legislative session is so much longer then). Even-numbered years create a supplemental budget. No matter the year, session always starts on the second Monday in January.

NTIB (Necessary to Implement Budget): Bills can be determined NTIB as a way to delay voting on them until the budget process is under way. This can be employed as a smart tactic for keeping a bill alive.

Policy Committee: The role of this committee is to discuss policy merits of a particular bill –how it would impact the community, the environment, etc. Committee members will hear testimony from lobbyists, researchers, and community members about how they would be impacted if this bill were to become a law. The policy committee is the first committee that a bill must pass through on its journey.

Rules Committee: This is the third and final committee that a bill must pass through. The Rules Committee decides if and when the bill in question goes to the floor for a vote.

Study bill: Sometimes, instead of passing a bill into law, lawmakers may choose to pass the bill as a study. Instead of changing or creating a law, they have decided to work with researchers to study the issue. Afterward, study bills can be sponsored for committee consideration, and refiled as a legislative bill if approved. Study bills can sometimes be used as a strategy for killing a bill.

Support/Oppose: On our bill tracker page, you will see that we have highlighted bills as ones we either oppose or support. We support policy that we believe will allow all members of our community to live well and reach their potential, and likewise oppose policy that we believe will harm our community.

Work Session: These are committee meetings where lawmakers analyze and dissect the contents of a bill. Work sessions may seem similar to hearings, but they are different in one key aspect– they do not include testimony from the public, although the public is allowed to attend a work session.


 

POLICY TERMS- These are phrases or words that you may hear in discussions about social programs or mentioned in articles or research studies about big-picture ideas like poverty, racial injustice, or homelessness.

ABD: Aged, Blind, & Disabled—a form of public assistance for eligible disabled/aged individuals that provides medical coverage and a monthly cash grant of $197. Read more about ABD and our policy recommendations here.

Asset limits: An “asset” as defined in this context is anything of value that an individual owns and may be able to sell for monetary gain, such as a stock, bond, car, boat, house, etc. There are limits to the amount of assets a person can have when applying for benefits such as TANF, HEN, and ABD. For example, someone can be denied TANF benefits (which are contingent upon its recipients actively working) for the simple reason that they are above the asset limit because they own a car which they need to get to work. Take action on asset limits here!

Barrier: Here, we define the word “barrier” as something that does not allow or limits a person or group of persons from achieving a particular goal. Since Poverty Action always approaches our advocacy from a social and racial equity lens, many of the barriers we identify correspond to this.

HEN: Housing and Essential Needs- a form of public assistance for eligible disabled individuals that provides assistance with housing and hygiene products. Read more about HEN and our policy recommendations here.

TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families- a form of public assistance for families with children. In Washington, it is known as the WorkFirst program.  Read more about TANF and our policy recommendations here .