Alley vacation -- Not a holiday destination for hobos, but a zoning concept I became familiar with while working on the general-assignment rotation at the Springfield News-Sun in Ohio. If alongside your property there is an overgrown alley that has not been used for some time, you can apply for an "alley vacation." If the Planning & Zoning Board approves, the city gives up its rights to the alley and you can assume ownership. Generally, before property owners can apply for an alley vacation, they should have spent some time and effort mowing the grass, pulling the weeds or making other improvements.
Paper street -- Another term I learned in Springfield. It's a road that exists on maps but not in reality. Sometimes I think I live in a paper world.
Prothonotary -- We don't have these in Connecticut. It's not pronounced pro-tho-NO-tary, as one might assume. No. It's pro-THON-o-tary. It means court clerk. Why don't they just say court clerk?
Sine die -- Another word that's not pronounced the way you think. "Sine die" rhymes with "shiny dye." If you don't make a living in the halls of the Pennsylvania Capitol and you didn't take Latin in high school, you've probably never heard this term. Literally, it means "without day." Theoretically, it means adjourning a meeting without a set date to return. Practically, it means keep your eye on your wallet. Sine die is a time period that runs between Election Day and the start of the new Legislative session. That's plenty of time for shenanigans of outgoing lawmakers and others who won't face voters again for two or four years. This is the time period when lawmakers feel most free to pass legislation that constituents would find outrageous.
Astro turf -- A lobbying effort that appears to be grassroots but is actually financed by Big Money.
Brinksmanship -- The practice of pushing something dangerous to the brink of disaster in order to gain a favorable outcome. Certain Pennsylvania politicians are experts at this.
Non-meeting -- This is a term I learned early in my reporting career. After I challenged the propriety of discussing public business during closed-door exective sessions, the New Britain Board of Education in Connecticut found a new way to keep me out. They invented the term "non-meeting." They would discuss things during what they termed a "non-meeting." Since it wasn't a meeting, they reasoned, it wasn't subject to the state open-meetings law. The state Freedom of Information Commission thought differently. After I filed a complaint, board members were forced to open their meetings and to attend FOIC training sessions.