The Senate and the House of Representatives together are known as the General Assembly, or legislature. The General Assembly legislates in a two-year cycle and all members are up for election at the same time every two years. There are 50 members of the Senate and 120 members of the House of Representatives. The legislature convenes in even-numbered years for a shorter sessions, and as with all odd numbered years, the legislature just convened in January to begin its long session.
There are plenty of nuances to the rules of the General Assembly, but in a nutshell, it’s important to remember there must be either absolute majority dominance or cooperation in order for laws to pass.
First, anyone can draft a bill but only a member of the general assembly can introduce or file a bill. This means aides and lobbyists, but also regular citizens and activists can influence the content of a bill. Secondly, once filed, a bill is assigned to committee for discussion before reaching the floor for a vote. Thirdly, a representative can file a bill in either the Senate or the House and once passed, the bill goes to the other chamber.
Occasionally both chambers will pass a bill on the same issue and then the two bills will be reconciled (a negotiation to combine the bills). As you can see, there is a lot of back and forth between the committees and chambers, but recently there has been little between the parties. Now that Republicans no longer have absolute veto power, we hope to see more cooperation between the parties as well.
We’ve created a simple graphic – that we encourage you to share with family and friends – which visually explains how bills are created in North Carolina.
To find your representatives go to Who Represents Me.