An Overview of State Legislatures

A state legislature in the United States is the legislative body of any of the 50 U.S. states. The formal name varies from state to state. In 25 states, the legislature is simply called the Legislature, or the State Legislature; however in 19 states, the legislature is called the General Assembly. In Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the legislature is called the General Court, while North Dakota and Oregon designate the legislature as the Legislative Assembly.

Every state, except Nebraska , has a bicameral legislature, meaning that the legislature consists of two separate legislative chambers or houses. The smaller chamber is called the Senate and is usually referred to as the upper house. Members of the smaller chamber represent more citizens and usually serve longer terms, generally four years, than members of the larger chamber. In 41 states, the larger chamber is called the House of Representatives. Five states designate the larger chamber the Assembly (California, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin) and three states (Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia) call it the House of Delegates. Members of the larger chamber usually serve two-year terms.

Find out when your state legislature meets for its regular legislative session.