Student Guide to the Legislature
- What is the Legislature?
The Legislature is the branch of government that makes new laws and changes old ones. It is made up of 120 members in 40 districts in New Jersey. These men and women represent the views and concerns of the people in their part of the state.
- What are Houses?
The New Jersey Legislature is divided into two bodies called Houses. The Houses of the New Jersey Legislature are the Senate and the General Assembly. There are 40 Senators and 80 General Assembly members, who are elected by the voters in their legislative districts. The members of the two Houses also are divided into political groups, called parties. The two major parties are Democrats and Republicans. The group having the largest number of members is called the majority party. The other group is the minority party.
- What is the difference between the Legislature and Congress?
Our State Legislature makes laws only for New Jersey, just as Pennsylvania’s Legislature makes laws only for its state. Congress meets in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., and creates laws for all fifty states.
- Who can be a legislator?
A State Senator must be at least 30 years old and must have lived in New Jersey for at least four years. A member of the General Assembly must be at least 21 years old and must have lived in the state for at least two years. Both must live in their legislative districts for one year before the election.
- What are legislative districts?
New Jersey is divided into 40 legislative districts. The people of each district elect one Senator and two General Assembly members. Each district has about the same number of people in it, so each legislator represents about the same number of people. New boundary lines for the districts are drawn every ten years after an official count or census has been taken of the people and where they live. The shapes of the districts may be changed to show changes in the population. City districts are usually small because more people live in small areas. Suburban and rural legislative districts may be very large, which shows that the people live farther apart.
- When does the Legislature meet?
The Houses usually meet on Mondays and Thursdays all year long. Meetings to vote on proposed laws, called bills, are voting sessions. The Legislature meets in the State House in Trenton, New Jersey's capital city. In most years both Houses take a break, or recess, during July and August.