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Legislative Process

Reference Number: MTAS-989
Reviewed Date: 01/05/2023

In the earliest and coldest months of each year, the Tennessee General Assembly begins meeting to consider legislation for the state. Each General Assembly lasts two years and has two sessions — the first session in odd-numbered years and the second session in even-numbered years. Each session will usually run from January until mid-May.

The organizational session of each General Assembly must be held on the second Tuesday in January, after members of the House of Representatives have been elected. General Assembly officers, such as speakers of the two houses, are chosen during this phase. The organizational session may last no longer than 15 consecutive calendar days, and no legislation may be passed on third reading during this period. The General Assembly must meet on the first Tuesday after the organizational session, unless it sets an earlier date by joint resolution.

The second session (or second year) of each General Assembly usually begins in January, also. During each session, the General Assembly will consider approximately 2,800 bills (1,400 in each House) and will adopt around 500 new public acts. Of these new public act, about 200 will affect municipalities and municipal officials to some degree.

Although the General Assembly meets only during the first few months of each year, preparations for the next session frequently begin during the current session and continue throughout the year. Legislation often spawns more legislation, or it may be necessitated by actions of other bodies and officers. The courts or the attorney general, for example, may render decisions or opinions that are adverse to municipal interests and demand legislative correction.

Legislative bills often turn out to be complex, with many people and many groups involved in their development and preparation. Legislation dealing with municipal purchasing, for example, might mean several weeks of meetings and informal discussions among city officials, Tennessee Municipal League (TML) staff, Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) consultants, private company representatives, and the comptroller’s office staff. Legislation might go through many revisions before agreement is reached on the final version of the proposed bill. Legislative work is not as seasonal as one might first expect.

The purpose of this report is to inform city officials about the legislative process and how public acts are passed. Public acts that affect cities will influence all, almost all, or a whole group of cities (such as all cities incorporated under the Uniform City Manager-Commission Charter). Private acts, which are legislative enactments generally affecting only one city or county and requiring local approval, are not considered here.