“The desk” is another name for the rostrum where the presiding officer and various clerks of the chamber sit.
According to recent practices, most bills, resolutions, and committee reports are delivered to the clerks at the presiding officer’s desk for processing throughout the day.
The desk holds significant symbolic and functional importance in the legislative process.
Symbolically, it represents the authority and control that the presiding officer holds over the chamber’s proceedings.
From the desk, the presiding officer can oversee debates, enforce the rules of the chamber, and ensure orderly conduct among the members.
They also hold the power to recognize members who wish to speak, call for votes, and announce the results.
Functionally, the desk serves as a working space for the presiding officer and often for the clerks or other staff assisting with the legislative process.
It is typically equipped with a variety of tools and references, including a gavel to maintain order, a sound system for communication, copies of the chamber’s rules and procedures, and possibly screens or other technology to assist with vote tallying or other administrative tasks.
Furthermore, in a broader context, “the desk” can also refer to the place where bills, resolutions, and other legislative items are officially received and processed in the legislative chamber.
For instance, the “hopper” is usually placed next to the rostrum.
The phrase “to lay something on the desk” means to officially introduce a legislative item for consideration.
Thus, it serves as both a physical space and a conceptual cornerstone of legislative activity.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.