Learn the glossary terms used by government insiders.
Hover over each to reveal it’s definition.

Here’s set of CRAM flashcards that includes Dictation and Games.


Budget Surplus

The difference that results when planned revenues exceed planned spending in a given fiscal year.

Budget Gap

The difference that results when planned spending exceeds planned revenues in a given fiscal year.

Modified Budget

The Adopted Expense or Revenue Budgets are modified when revenue projections change or expenditures are reallocated during a fiscal year.

Home Rule

A quasi-constitutional grant of authority for local governments to pass local laws relating to their property, affairs or government, or subjects specifically listed by the State Legislature in the Municipal Home Rule Law provided such local laws are consistent with the constitution and general statutes of New York State. The home rule authority of local governments may be preempted where the State Legislature has indicated an express or implied intention to do so.

Majority Leader

The Council member chosen by the members of the political party with the greatest number of members in the Council.

Capital Appropriation

The amount of money allocated to a specific budget line in the Capital Budget.


One of the two legislative houses at the state-level. It is considered the “lower house” and is similar to the House ofRepresentatives at the federal level. There are 150 Assembly members.


Legislation pending in the Council is called an introduction.

Capital Commitments

Capital commitments are awarded contracts for capital budget spending, frequently for a multi-year period, that have been registered with the City Comptroller.

New York City Council

The Legislative branch of New York City government. There are 51 councilmembers representing communities in each of the City’s five boroughs.

Unit Of Appropriation

An agency’s operating budget is divided into a number of units of appropriation. These units of appropriation are further divided into personal service (PS) and other than personal service (OTPS) expenditures.

Chief of Staff

Each member has a chief of staff who oversees the internal working of the member’s office and is often involved in policy decisions. The Chief of Staff is often based in the member’s district office but may travel with the member to Albany.


The Speaker of the City Council is the presiding officer of the Council and is elected from among its members. After the 2015 elections, the Council elected Melissa Mark-Viverito to be Speaker.

Legislative Office Building

The Legislative Office Building is located across the street from the Capitol. Most member offices are located in the LOB.


Laws are organized by topic into statutes. Once a bill becomes a law, it is included in a statute. Bill language is language that amends or creates new statutory language.

Legislative Staff

Refers to staff that work on legislation. It may be in reference to a member’s personal staff or staff person who is a part of Central Staff.


All members have someone in their office that handles scheduling. It is usually a full-time position but in some offices there may be a legislative assistant or aide who assists with scheduling and is not called the scheduler.


A provision designed to ensure that local legislative bodies do not act to alter the power (structural authority) of other elected officials, such as the mayor, without the consent of the electorate.


Each member usually has a lawyer on their personal staff to advise them on legislation and legal matters.

Original Jurisdiction

Refers to the standing committee to which a bill is referred to first (originally).

Appropriation/Line Item

Synonymous with a line item in the budget, an appropriation is an allocation of funding in a budget bill.

Second Floor

The Governor and the Governor’s staff are located on the Second Floor of the Capitol building. It is common for members and staff to refer to the “Second floor” when discussing the Governor and his or her staff.

Message of Necessity

The Governor can issue “message of necessity” to circumvent the requirement that state legislation “age” for 3 days on the calendar.

Albany Office

Every Assembly member and State Senator has an Albany office. This is where their legislative staff is usually based. During the legislative session (January to June), legislators are required to be in Albany on session days.

Minority Leader

The Council member chosen by the members of the political party with the greatest number of members in the Council after the majority party.

Omnibus Bill

A single document that is accepted in a single vote by a legislature and either puts several similar measures or combines diverse subjects into a single bill.


Refers to the Executive branch of New York City government including Mayor’s office and executive agencies.

Budget Modification

A change in an amount in any portion of the Adopted Expense or Revenue Budget during the fiscal year (see also Modified Budget).


The amount of money identified in the budget for expenditure by an agency, generally divided into a number of smaller “units of appropriation.”


Before the budget is passed, standing committees in the Senate and Assembly are organized into clusters called “tables.” Tables are the main structure used for negotiations between the two houses on the budget.

City Charter

The New York City Charter establishes the basic form of organization and administration for New York City government. It sets forth the structure of the City government and the manner in which it operates.

Program Bill

Refers to a bill that is introduced by a member at the request of a government official outside the Legislature, typically the Governor or Attorney General.

State Senate

One of the two legislative houses at the state-level. It is considered the “upper house” and is similar to the Senate at the federal level. There are 62 State Senators.


A sum of money within an appropriation that is set aside for a specific purpose.


These terms are used interchangeably to refer to Assembly members and Senators. Most staff use the term “member.”

Local Law

When the Mayor signs an “introduction,” it becomes a Local Law, that is, a law of New York City. Local laws may be enacted over the objection of the Mayor through the veto override process, which requires a 2/3 majority vote from the City Council.


Once "payments in lieu of expenses," Lulus are "bonuses" or "stipends" state lawmakers get for chairing committees and leadership posts.

Stand-Alone Bill

The majority of bills that pass the Senate, Assembly, or City Counsel are bills that address one issue. These single issues bills are referred to as “stand alone” bills (as opposed to omnibus bills).


A doctrine of state law that holds that a state law displaces a local law or regulation that is in the same field and is in conflict or inconsistent with the state law. Preemption occurs when the State Legislature specifically declares its intent to preempt the subject matter, or when the Legislature enacts sufficient legislation and regulation so as to indicate an intent to exclude regulation by any other governmental entity. The courts have termed such indication intent to “occupy the field.”