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Legislative Sessions: An Overview
Legislative sessions may be classified into three main types—regular session, special or extraordinary sessions, and the interim.
A “regular session” is the annual (or biennial) meeting of the legislative branch required by constitution. Frequently debated questions center around the best formats for a regular legislative session. Should a legislature meet annually or biennially? Should there be a limit on the scope of issues that may be debated? Should the length of the session be limited?
A “special or extraordinary session” is a specially-called meeting of the legislative branch. Special sessions may be called by the governor or legislature. Only the matters specified in the gubernatorial or legislative call may be discussed during a special or extraordinary session.
Use the NCSL legislative session calendars to find out when legislatures held regular sessions or any special sessions for particular years.
An “interim” is the interval or period between regular sessions of a legislature. During the regular session, legislators are immersed in the immediate issues and preoccupied with assessing particular bills and appropriations. They have little, if any, time to explore broad policy issues or conduct research and investigation in any depth. Indeed, the more severely the length of a legislative session is limited, the more important it is to carry out these activities during the interim. As a result, interim activity often becomes the “homework” of a legislature.