Policy Definitions

May 22, 2020

Affordability: The ability to pay for a service or thing, determining whether something is too expensive, and how it will be paid for.

Amicus Brief: legal documents filed in court cases by members of the community. The briefs share with the court additional information or arguments that the court may want to think about before making a decision.

Appropriation: setting aside a part of the federal budget to a specific program or use.

Authorization: Congress saying that money can be spent on a given item but not that it will be spent on that item. May be for one year, a number of years, or with no end date. May be for a specific amount of money or for "such sums as may be necessary."

Beneficiary: A person who benefits from a program like Medicaid or Social Security; the person who receives payment or services.

Bicameral: two branches of Congress - House and Senate. Bicameral legislation means the same legislation is in both the House and Senate

Bill: an idea or solution to a problem from Congress that if passed would become law

Bipartisan: When people of both political parties (Democratic and Republican) work together on a law.

Budget Resolution: legislation that sets forth the congressional budget, establishing various budget totals and allocations. The budget resolution serves as a map for the appropriation process. It guides Congress, but it is not law.

Caucus: a meeting of Members of Congress on shared issues (ex: Autism Caucus)

Census: A determination of the population, or how many people live in the country, along with some traits or descriptions of the population. 

Committee: parts of the House and Senate where Members consider legislation and conduct hearings and investigations based on that committee's policy issue (Ex: Special Committee on Aging)

Competitive Integrated Employment: Full or part-time work at minimum wage or higher, with wages and benefits similar to that for people without disabilities doing the same work, and fully integrated with coworkers without disabilities.

Complex: Complicated or difficult to break down and understand.

Continuing Resolution: A continuing resolution provides temporary funding for federal agencies until new appropriations bills become law. When Congress does not pass a continuing resolution by October 1, it can result in a government shutdown.

Debt Limit/Debt Ceiling: The debt limit, or debt ceiling, is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments.  

Deficit: the amount spent is more than what is brought in

Discretionary spending: a type of spending for which appropriators can make choices; optional spending.

Electoral College: In the United State, the individuals who elect the president, how they must vote is different by state.

Eligibility: The requirements that must be met in order to benefit from a government program or other benefit.

Entitlement: a Federal program of law that requires payments to any person or unit of government that meets the eligibility criteria established by law. (For example, Social Security, Medicaid)

Evidence-based: Making decisions and policy that apply the findings of the best available current research or studies.

Fiscal year: the time beginning on October 1 and ends on September 30 for a budget

Hearing: A meeting of a committee or subcommittee -- usually open to the public -- in order to gather information and opinions on proposed legislation, to conduct an investigation, or review the work of a Federal agency or program.

H.R.: Bills that begin with "H.R." are from the U.S. House of Representatives

Initiatives: Plans, activities, and strategies that work toward a goal or priority.

Infrastructure: The system or framework required for an activity.

Institutions of Higher Learning: Colleges, community colleges, and universities.

Jeopardizing: At risk or in harms way.

"Lame duck" session: When Congress comes back after a November election at the end of a Congressional session to finish their term. Some elected officials will not be in the next Congress, and are informally called "lame duck Members"

Legislation:  Policies, or other matters under consideration by Congress or other bodies that create laws.

Legislative session: When the House and Senate are working  

Mandatory spending: appropriations that are required by law

Markup: The process in congressional committees and subcommittees to debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation. 

Members or Members of Congress: elected Senators and Representatives. There are 100 members in the Senate and 435 in the House

Omnibus spending bill: is a bill that sets the budget of many departments of the government all at one time. Every year, Congress must pass bills that appropriate money for all discretionary government spending. One bill is passed for each Sub-Committee of Appropriations- one bill for Education/Labor, one for Defense, and so on.  When Congress does not pass separate bills for each sub-committee the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, it will put together each sub-committee appropriations bills into one big bill called an omnibus spending bill.  

Onset: The beginning or start of something.

Paid Leave: Time take off from work, with pay.

P.L.: Stands for Public Law - A public bill or joint resolution that has passed both the House and Senate and been signed into law.

Poverty: Not having enough money to live; being extremely poor.

Provision: Part of something, for example, part of a law or regulation.

Reauthorization: Approve or pass again, for example approve funding for a program that was already a law.

Recess: also called a District work period - is when members of Congress are in their home districts rather than in Washington. They are working and meeting with constituents, which is you!

Regulation: A rule that governs action or procedure.

Restraint: The action of physically keeping someone in one place.

Restrictive: Putting limitations on someone's freedom.

Revenue: The money that a city, county, state, or country brings in as income, usually as taxes.

Roll call vote: a vote in which each Members of Congress vote "yea" or "nay" (yes or no) as their name is called.

S.: Bills that begin with "S." are from the U.S. Senate

Seclusion: The state of being isolated or kept away from others.

Solvency: Having enough of something to cover the costs of the program. For example, having enough money to pay what you owe means you are solvent.

Spousal impoverishment: protections means it allows for a spouse to keep a share (or apart/some) of the couple's income and assets (things they own and have) to meet their needs without risking Medicaid eligibility.

Subminimum Wage: Below or less than the minimum wage paid in a city or state.

Surplus: Excess or left-over funds.

Universal Design: Products or features created to be accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics. For Example, curb cuts.

Work Incentives: Work incentives are programs that the Social Security Administration has created to allow people with disabilities who are receiving Social Security benefits to work and continue to receive monthly payments. Each program has very specific rules, and some programs allow the work attempt for a limited amount of time.