State Government 101:
About the Legislature:
The Tennessee General Assembly is made up of 132 members. There are 99 members of the House of Representatives who each serve two year terms, and 33 Senators who serve four year terms.While each Senator's term is four years, Tennessee has a "staggered term" system in which about half of the Senate is up for election every two years. Currently, the House of Representatives is made up of 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats. The State Senate consists of 28 Republicans and 5 Democrats
The Tennessee General Assembly meets each year in Nashville. The beginning of session starts at noon on the second Tuesday of January. Each General Assembly meets 90 days over a two year period. Historically, these legislative sessions take place from mid-January to late April or May.
The first items on the agenda for each Legislative Session include the swearing in of new members, and the adoption of the rules to be followed for the next two years. Following those events, each body then elects its presiding office or speaker for the next two years. Following the appointments of the Chief Clerk, Chief Engrossing Clerk, and Chief Sergeant-at-arms, the legislative body will convene in regular session and will begin to act on all legislation.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
Legislative proposals can originate in either the Senate or the House in the form of bills, resolutions, and joint resolutinos in Tennessee. Bills can be differentiated into "general bills" and "local bills." A general bill is a bill that will have a statewide impact, while a local bill, or "enabling legislation" only affects a specific town or county. A local bill, if passed by the state legislature, then goes to the local governing body, or in some cases the voting population of the area, to be adopted or refused.
All laws must be considered and passed on three seperate days in the legislative session. After the second "consideration" general bills are referred to committee for review. Committees will then determine whether the bill needs to be modifies, amended, or not reported out of committee based on their recommendation. Upon approval by committee, the bill is sent for its third day to be voted on by the entirety of either the House or Senate. Upon recieving a constitutional majority (50 votes in the House, 17 in the Senate) the bill goes to the Governor. The Governor can then approve the bill, allowing it to become law, vetoing the law, or by letting the bill become law without his signature.
For more information on the legislative process, please visit Tennessee's General Assembly's website.