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State Government - Legislative Branch

The Senate and General Assembly make up the legislative branch. The Senate has 40 members, and the General Assembly has 80 members. One senator and two assembly members are elected from each of the 40 districts of New Jersey. The Senate and Assembly chambers are located in the State House in Trenton.

The Legislature's main job is to enact laws. The Legislature can also propose amendments to the New Jersey Constitution.

The Senate and General Assembly meet for about 40 sessions a year. Sessions are held on Mondays and Thursdays. During the rest of the week, the legislators often hold committee meetings or public hearings. Since the legislature does not meet year-round, legislative work is a part-time job. Most legislators have another job as well.

The leader of the Senate is the Senate President. The Speaker of the General Assembly heads the General Assembly.

The President and the Speaker schedule meetings and determine which bills will be considered within their respective houses. They also lead the legislative sessions.

A legislator may start his or her day with a morning committee meeting. Around lunchtime, he or she might meet with other members of his or her political party. On a Monday or Thursday afternoon, floor sessions are held where debates and votes on bills are held in public.

While both houses work on making and passing laws, the Senate and Assembly have individual powers, too. The Senate approves the people that the governor appoints to official positions. The Assembly is the only group that can bring impeachment charges. Impeachment is a charge of misconduct against an official. But the Senate is the court of impeachment in New Jersey, where the charges are tried. Any bills requiring revenue to be raised start out in the Assembly. But, by custom, the Senate handles the state budget.

A legislator must live in the district he or she represents. Senators have to be at least 30 and have to live in New Jersey for at least four years before they are elected. Members of the Assembly must be at least 21 and state residents for two years. Legislators earn $35,000 per year. That salary will rise to $49,000 in 2002.

There is also leadership within the political parties in both houses. The majority and minority leaders and the assistant leaders come up with the each party's policies on the issues raised in the bills. Additionally, there are many committees that review legislation. Learn more about the role of committees and the process of making a law in "How a Bill Becomes a Law."

The legislative branch is also made up of a number of staff members. The Office of Legislative Services provides legal advice and research to members of both political parties. They also take care of writing the bills. In addition, each party has its own staff that performs similar functions, but only for that party. Each legislator also has his or her own district office with a full staff.

 
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