State legislatures are the law making bodies of the 50 states of the United States. They are the legislative branch at the state level of American government, and (generally) perform many of the same duties on the state level that the United States Congress performs on the federal level. The legislative branch is usually balanced by a state executive officer (a Governor) and a state judicial system. In some states, particularly the older ones, the state legislature is called a "General Assembly" or a "General Court."
A state legislature will usually go into session shortly after the first of the year and remain in session for several months considering matters referred to it by the governor of the state or introduced by members. Business and other special interest organizations often lobby the legislature to obtain or favorably influence legislation. State legislatures often approve the state's budget.
All states except Nebraska have bicameral legislatures. Prior to the Voting Rights Act, many state legislatures were organized so that each body represented citizens according to a different principle; for example, by small single-member districts in the lower chamber and at large by county in the upper. Since the one man, one vote principle embodied in the Voting Rights Act was definitively applied to state legislatures, those states have been forced to adopt other systems for electing members to the upper body, most commonly by adding periodic reapportionment to the existing scheme in that body. (For example, in Vermont, state senators were formerly elected at large, two to a county. Now, they are elected at large, from senatorial districts of comparable population.) It is often possible in such systems to elect different majority parties in the two chambers.