Basic Civics FAQs.


 Federal Level:


What are the three branches of the US government?


The legislative branch makes laws. The judicial branch interprets the laws; and the executive branch enforces the laws. 


How many members are there in the US congress?


            435 US House Representatives and 100 US Senators (total = 535)


Who is in charge of the US Senate?


            The Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate


Who represents North Carolina at the federal level?


North Carolina is represented at the federal level in the U.S. Congress by two U.S. Senators and thirteen U.S. Representatives


How long is each term for a US House Rep?


            The term for a US House Rep is two years.


How long is each term for a U.S. senator?


            The term for a US Senator is six years.


Who becomes president if both the president and vice president die?


The Speaker of the House becomes the President.                   


Who nominates judges to serve as Supreme Court justices?


            The president nominates supreme court judges.


Who has the power to declare war?


            Only congress can declare war.  (The president cannot declare war.)


What kind of government does the United States have?


The US is a true democracy.  It is a republic, or sometimes called an indirect democracy.  In a true (direct) democracy the "majority rules" - and the minority loses. A hypothetical example can demonstrate the idea. Pretend that you're a land owner, and that I would like to buy some of your property. You don't want to sell this property because it's been in your family for several generations. In a direct democracy, I could gather a dozen other land owners together, proposing that we divide your land between us. We will allow you to vote on the proposition, because this IS a democracy after all -- and you will lose thirteen to one. That's a direct democracy!   In a republic, nothing can outvote your individual rights! They are unalienable. If the land belongs to you it doesn't matter if I have a hundred friends, a thousand friends, or a hundred thousand friends! YOUR PROPERTY IS YOUR PROPERTY! It is the government's fiduciary responsibility to protect your rights. If you are in doubt, read your copy of the Declaration of Independence. Right after, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" it says, "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed".


What is a WHIP?


The assistant majority and assistant minority leaders are also called the WHIPs. WHIPs are assistants to the floor leaders who are also elected by their party conferences. The Majority and Minority Whips are responsible for mobilizing votes within their parties on major issues. In the absence of a party floor leader, the whip often serves as acting floor leader.


What is the electoral college?

The electoral college are electors chosen from each state to elect the president and vice president of the U.S. Under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, each state chooses electors in the same number that the state has senators and representatives. The electors have the discretion to choose the candidate they vote for, but in practice the electors vote for the candidate that wins the most votes in their respective states. In all the states except Maine, the candidate that wins a plurality of the popular votes wins all of the state's electoral votes. Since North Carolina has thirteen US Reps and two US senators, NC has fifteen electors.

Why are there two parts to the legislature?

When the Constitution was being drafted, a debate broke out between states with large populations and those with smaller populations. Each had a different opinion about how the states should be represented in the new government.  To be fair to each group, a compromise was reached.  By dividing Congress into two houses, the House of Representatives would favor states with larger populations, while the Senate would favor those states with smaller populations.


The House or Representatives:


There are a total of 435 members in the US House of Representatives.   Each member represents an area of a state, known as a congressional district.   The number of representatives is based on the number of districts in a state.   Each state is guaranteed one seat.  Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts the population of the states to determine the number of districts in each state.  


Representatives, elected for two-year terms, must be 25 years old, a citizen for at least seven years, and a resident of the state from which they are elected.  The House has special jobs that only it can perform. It can:  (1) Enact new tax laws. (2) Decide if a government official should be put on trial before the Senate if s/he commits a crime against the country.


   The Senate:


There are a total of 100 members in the Senate. The Constitution states that the vice president has formal control over the Senate and is known as the president of the Senate.  In actuality, the vice president is only present for important ceremonies and to cast a tie-breaking vote.


Senators, elected for six-year terms, must be 30 years old, a citizen for at least nine years, and a resident of the state from which they are elected.


As in the House, the Senate also has special jobs that only it can perform. It can: (1) Approve or deny any treaties the president makes. (2) Approve or deny any people the president recommends for jobs, such as cabinet officers, Supreme Court justices, and ambassadors.  (3) Conduct a trial for a government official who commits a crime against the country.



State level:


How many members are there in the NC legislature?


The North Carolina Legislature is made of two bodies or houses: the Senate, which has 50 members; and the House of Representatives, which consists of 120 members. Each legislator represents either a Senatorial District or a House District.  The legislative powers of these 170 individuals are limited to North Carolina state laws only.


What is another name for the NC legislature?


It’s also called the General Assembly.  The General Assembly meets in regular session beginning in January of each odd-numbered year, and adjourns to reconvene the following even-numbered year for a shorter session. One legislative session is two years long – called a biennial.  The Senate and the House of Representatives meet in their respective chambers on Monday evenings; in the middle of the day (usually at 1:30) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and on Friday mornings. The members return to their homes to take care of their affairs and be available to their constituents during the weekend. During the week, committee meetings are held in the morning and late afternoon. A great deal of the legislative work is done in the committee meetings.


Where do they meet?


The Legislative Building is a five-domed marble structure that occupies a city block and houses the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers as well as members and staff offices and committee rooms. The Legislative Office Building (LOB) houses committee rooms, members and staff offices, as well as offices of the Secretary of State and State Auditor.    


How can I find out which elected officials represent me here in North Carolina?




Who are the leaders of the NC General Assembly?


The Lieutenant Governor presides over the senate.  The House of Representatives is presided over by a Speaker (currently two co-speakers), elected from its membership. The presiding officer of the Senate (called the President of the Senate) is the Lieutenant Governor of the State. She/he has no vote in the Senate except to break a tie. The Senate and House also elect other officers from their respective memberships including a President Pro Tempore in the Senate and a Speaker Pro Tempore in the House. President Pro Tempore is a constitutionally recognized officer of the Senate who presides over the chamber in the absence of the President (Lt. Governor). The President Pro Tempore (or, "president for a time") is elected by the Senate and is, by custom, the Senator of the majority party with the longest record of continuous service.


Who can be a NC Legislator?


Every NC voter who is at least 21 years of age is eligible to run for public office.

Requirements for Senator

                     -must be at least 25 years old

                     -lived in the State as a citizen for two years

                     -lived in the district for which he is chosen for one year.

Requirements for House Representative

                     -lived in the district for which he is chosen for one year.


How long is each term for a NC House Rep?


            The term for state senators is two years.


How long is each term for a US House Rep?


          The term for house reps is two years as well.


How much do Legislators get paid?

Position                                                         Annual Income          Monthly Allowance

Speaker of the House                                                   $38,151                       $1,413

President Pro Tempore of the Senate                            $38,151                       $1,413

Speaker Pro Tempore of the House                              $21,739                       $836

Deputy President Pro Tempore of the Senate    $21,739                       $836

Majority and Minority Leaders                                      $17,048                       $666

Other members                                                             $13,951                       $559


How can I get more information on the North Carolina General Assembly?


Visit the web site of the NC General Assembly:

How are bills made into laws here in NC?

          1.Drafting of Bills

A bill is a proposed law. It may be drafted by any concerned citizen, organization, or legislator.  The Legislative Services Commission's Bill Drafting Division drafts bills at the request of the members of the General Assembly. The Office of the Attorney General has the statutory duty to draft bills for the State departments and agencies generally, including the General Assembly. Thus, legislators have two separate offices to which they may turn for drafts of bills.


2.Introduction of Bills

Only a member of the General Assembly may introduce a bill - that is, present it to the General Assembly for its consideration - and he or she is called the bill's introducer or sponsor.      At the proper time during each daily session, the presiding officer (called the Chair) announces "Introduction of Bills and Resolutions." A member wishing to introduce a bill has already filed the bill with the Principal Clerk on the previous legislative day when it received a bill number. It is received by the Reading Clerk who reads aloud the name of the introducer, the bill number, and the bill title. At this point the bill has passed its first reading.


3.Reference to Committee

Normally, as soon as a bill is introduced, the President Pro Tempore for Senate bills and the Speaker of the House of Representatives for House bills name a committee to which the bill will be assigned for careful study and recommendation. If the committee approves the bill, it reports this fact and the bill is placed on the calendar - the daily schedule of business - for consideration by the full membership of the body. Amendments may be recommended by the committee or may be proposed by any member from the floor.


4.Consideration by First House

When the time comes for a consideration of the bill by the full membership of the house (Senate or House of Representatives), the Chair will recognize the chair of the committee which recommended the bill for passage. This chair, or a member designated by the chair, will explain the bill, and then any member who wishes to speak for or against the bill will be heard. Sometimes there is lengthy and heated debate; sometimes there is virtually no debate at all. After all who wish to be heard have spoken, a vote is taken. If the vote is favorable, the bill is said to have passed its second reading and moves to its third and final reading, at which time there may be more debate.


5.Consideration by Second House

After a bill has passed it's third reading in the house in which it was introduced, it is sent to the other house, where it goes through the same process as in the first house - that is, it is referred to committee, and if approved, is debated and voted on at the second and third readings on the floor.


6.Concurrence in Amendments

It often happens that the second house will make changes in a bill which was passed by the house in which the bill originated. In such cases the bill must be returned to the house of origin with a request that that body concur in the changes. If the original house does concur, the bill is ready to be enrolled and signed into law.   If the original house objects to the amendments adopted in the other house, the two presiding officers appoint members to a conference committee which seeks to reconcile the differences between the two houses. If the committee can agree upon the disputed subject, the committee reports to each house, and the two houses vote on the recommended text. If either house rejects the conference committee's recommendation, the bill is defeated.


7.Enrollment, Ratification, and Publication

After a bill passes both houses, it is enrolled, that is, a clean copy, including amendments, is prepared, with space for the signatures of the two presiding officers, and the governor, if necessary.     The enrolled copy is taken to each presiding officer during the daily session. Each officer signs the enrolled copy. When the second signature is affixed, the bill is said to have been ratified. If the bill is a local law, it will become law.    In November 1996, the citizens of North Carolina voted to amend the State Constitution to allow for a gubernatorial veto. All Public Bills other than bills making appointments or revising districts are presented to the Governor on the day following ratification for the Governor's approval or veto. If the Governor signs the bill or takes no action on the bill within ten days after presentation, the bill becomes law. If the Governor vetoes a bill, the bill is returned to the original house where 3/5 of present and voting members can vote to override the veto. If the original house votes to override the veto, the bill is sent to the second house where 3/5 of present and voting members must also vote to override the veto before the bill can become law.  After it becomes law, the term "bill" is no longer used. The enrolled act or law is given a chapter number and is published under that number in a volume called "Session Laws of North Carolina."



How can I, as a North Carolina motorcyclist get involved in the political process?


-Write letters to the legislators that represent you so they understand your position on issues relating to bikers. 

-Arrange meetings and talk to your legislators to explain your position on the issues.

-Arrange your personal and work schedules so when all NC bikers are asked to go down to the legislative building in a show of support, you can participate.   Understand that a bill must undergo three readings in each of the two chambers, pass several committee meeting votes, as well as be approved by the Governor before it becomes law.  We benefit from biker representation at EACH committee meeting and chamber reading.  

-Communicate the CBA’s mission to other motorcyclists and encourage them to join a state level Motorcyclists Rights Organization (MRO) like the CBA / ABATE.  Also, encourage them to join a national MRO like the MRF.    

-Register to vote and VOTE.  As we saw in the Presidential election, one vote DOES count.

-Learn where candidates stand on motorcycle issues before voting.

-Take the RSS (BRC) and ERC safety courses for yourself and to reduce injury stats. Fewer accidents = more power.

-Make sure you have motorcycle insurance.  If you don’t – you are part of the problem, not the solution.

-Make sure you have medical insurance. If you don’t – you are part of the problem, not the solution and you will be contributing to the “Public Burden” theory.


CBA / A.B.A.T.E. of North Carolina

Safer Riding Through Education, Better Legislation Through Involvement!


The Concerned Bikers Association (CBA) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that supports all motorcyclists’ rights as well as promoting an atmosphere of education, cooperation, and fun. Membership is open to all riders of all makes and styles of motorcycles.  


We strive to preserve the universal right to a safe, unrestricted, motorcycling environment.  CBA is a neutral, non-profit organization that allows all riders to unite.   CBA works to safeguard our motorcycling rights, while allowing us to be individuals with different views.  Our main concern is putting motorcycle legislation in its proper perspective. This is being accomplished though motorcycle safety education programs, public awareness programs, and other programs designed to prevent injury or fatal accidents to motorcyclists.   CBA keeps the legislature informed of our position on legislation that is unfair or discriminatory towards motorcyclists.  We work closely with motorcycle rights organizations across the nation to stop discriminatory legislation aimed at all motorcyclists.


North Carolina Concerned Bikers Association


Motorcycle Riders Foundation


North Carolina BikePAC


NCRider Website