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NYSVMS Legislative Guide - State Government
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Your state government

The New York State government is made up of three branches: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. The Senate and Assembly (the Legislature) enacts laws. The Executive branch, which is comprised of the governor and state agencies, carries out programs established by law. The Court of Appeals and lower courts (the Judicial Branch) punishes law breakers; settles controversies and disputes; and interprets the constitutionality of laws.

For more information about New York State Government, we recommend you review New York State’s Constitution.

This FAQ is an invaluable resource for questions you may have about New York State’s Legislature, the state’s history and more.

Your lawmakers

The New York State Legislature is comprised of 63 Senators and 150 Assembly members. Their chambers are located at the State Capitol in Albany.

As a requirement of the position, all Senators and members of the Assembly:

·  must be at least 18 years old;
·   must have lived in the state for five years;
·   must have resided in the district they represent for 12 months prior to election; and
·   must currently live in the district they represent.

Elected legislators are not required by the state to only serve as lawmakers full time. Many members of the Senate and Assembly hold their primary jobs in addition to serving on the Legislature.

For more information about the New York State Senate, visit the Senate website. To find your state Senator, log onto the Senate’s homepage and enter your home or business address into the search feature in the upper left-hand corner.

For more information about the New York State Assembly, log onto the Assembly website. Visit this site and enter your address to find your representative Assembly member.

Legislative districts

The U.S. Constitution requires that congressional and state legislative district boundaries be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts detected by the federal census.

State Legislatures are responsible for redistricting. In New York State, the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Re-Apportionment analyzes the Census Bureau population figures used in the redistricting plan. Click here to view a transcript of the Task Force’s 2011 Public Hearing. 

Re-apportionment is the re-dividing of a given number of seats in a legislative body among smaller geographical units. The state constitution requires 150 Assembly districts and contains a formula for the determination of the number of Senate districts. There currently are 63 Senate districts.

You can access an interactive Senate district map here.

Legislative elections

Legislative elections are held in November of every even-numbered year. Senate and Assembly members serve two-year terms with no term limits.

If a legislative seat becomes vacant, a Special Election is held to fill the seat for the remainder of the term.

Legislative sessions

Each legislature is in session for two years, beginning the first Wednesday after the first Monday of each year, commencing with the Governor’s Annual Message to the Joint Legislature.

To access the Senate’s calendar, click here.

To access the Assembly’s calendar, click here.

All business conducted during the first year may be continued in the second year; with all unfinished business expiring at the end of the term.

While each house sets its own meeting schedule; they both hold approximately 60 sessions a year. Regular sessions usually occur on Monday and Tuesdays and additional dates added in regularly as the legislative year nears its end. Other days are often devoted to committee meetings and public hearings, as needed.

Occasionally, both houses will meet in joint session for an address by the Governor.

A typical session day consists of committee meetings in the morning, party conferences around midday and floor sessions in the afternoon and early evening. Committee meetings and floor sessions are open to the public. No advance arrangements are necessary to gain admission to the meeting rooms or the galleries.

For more information about open government, click here.

Legislative organization

Each house elects a presiding officer from among its members. These officers are called the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Assembly.

In New York, the Lieutenant Governor serves as the President of the Senate and is first in a line of succession to the governorship. When the Governor is out of state, the Lieutenant Governor serves as Acting Governor and the Senate Majority Leader is next in line of succession.

Each party in each house also chooses party leaders: the Majority Leader, Assistant Leaders and "Whips.” These party leaders help develop party policy on the issues before the legislature.

The Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly have broad powers within their houses, they:

·         decide the meeting schedules and daily calendar of bills to be considered;
·         preside over the sessions;
·         appoint the chairmen and members of the committees;
·         refer bills to committees for consideration; and

·         direct the business of their houses.

Each house establishes a number of standing reference committees to review legislation. Much of the discussion on the merits of a bill takes place in committee.

Legislative powers

The chief function of the legislature is to enact laws. A proposal to make a new law, or change or repeal an existing law, is presented to the legislature as a bill. To become law, a bill must pass both houses by majority vote and be approved by the governor.

The Legislature is also able to propose amendments to the New York State Constitution for submission to voters. A proposed amendment must be passed by a majority of both houses in two separately elected legislatures, i.e.  two consecutively elected legislatures must pass the amendment. No action by the governor is required. If passed, the proposed amendment is placed on the ballot in November for a public vote.

The path of legislation in New York State

The legislative process is a complicated one; involving many steps, processes and both the Senate and Assembly and the Governor. To gain a clear understanding of how legislation is passed in New York State, we encourage you to visit the following web sites:


New York State Senate's How a Bill Becomes a Law


The Legislative Process and You


The Business Council's How a Bill Becomes a Law in New York State



T       NYSVMS Legislative Guide Continued

Click here for more information on communicating with your lawmakers via email or phone.

Click here for the Do's and Don'ts when meeting face-to-face with your legislator.

Click here for ways to get involved.

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