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Overview of Legislative Process

The membership of each body then elects a presiding officer or speaker for a two-year term (the lifetime of each separate General Assembly) who holds that office until a successor is chosen at the initial convening of the next General Assembly. No limit is placed on the number of times a member may retain the office of Speaker.

The Speaker appoints the officers of each house including the Chief Clerk, Chief Engrossing Clerk and Chief Sergeant-at-Arms. The Speaker also appoints the officers of each standing committee and the membership of the standing committees. Once all organizational business is completed, the General Assembly then convenes in regular session and begins to act on legislation.

In general, the functions of the Legislature are to enact, amend, and repeal the laws of Tennessee. Some of the specific powers granted to the General Assembly by the state Constitution include: the appropriation of all money to be paid out of the state treasury; the levy and collection of taxes; and the right to authorize counties and incorporated towns to levy taxes.

A quorum of two-thirds of all the members to which a house is entitled is required to transact any business; a smaller number can only adjourn from day to day and may compel the attendance of absent members.

Legislative proposals can originate in either the Senate or House in the form of bills, resolutions and joint resolutions. A bill is a proposed law and may be either general or local. A general bill has a statewide impact, and a local bill affects only a particular county or town named in the bill. This local bill is sometimes referred to as "enabling legislation." If the local bill passes the legislature, then it must be ratified by the local governing body or voted on by the people of that area.

For a new law to be made, it must be considered and passed on three separate days (considerations) by both the House and Senate. After second consideration, general bills are referred to committee for review. That is where most of the work is done in determining if the bill should be modified, amended, or not reported out of the committee. Bills which the committees do approve are sent on through the system so that eventually they may be voted on by the full house for the third and final time. A constitutional majority is required for a new law to pass. This means it must receive at least 50 favorable votes in the House and 17 favorable votes in the Senate. Once a new law has been acted on favorably by the House and Senate, it is then sent to the Governor who can approve it by signing it, vetoing it, or letting it become a law without his signature. The Governor may also disapprove a measure by vetoing it. The legislature may override the Governor's veto with a constitutional majority.

A resolution expresses the opinion of one house of the legislature, whereas, a joint resolution expresses the opinion of both houses. All resolutions are adopted by a constitutional majority vote.

 
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