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Legislative Sessions

Legislative Sessions

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ANNUAL VS. BIENNIAL SESSIONS

Legislatures continually look for ways to improve their effectiveness. One reform frequently debated is annual versus biennial sessions. In the early 1960s, only 19 state legislatures met annually. The remaining 31 held biennial regular sessions. By the mid-1970s, the number of states meeting annually grew and now only four states meet biennially.

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LIMITED SCOPE SESSIONS

There are two types of annual sessions—general and limited scope. Of the states that meet annually, 39 legislatures hold general sessions each year where they consider all types of legislation during both years of a biennium. The remaining seven legislatures that meet annually limit one year of a biennium to consideration of specific types of legislation.

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SESSION LENGTH

Legislative session length may be unrestricted, or it may be limited.Session length limitations are set in a variety of ways. The limits may be found in constitution, statute or chamber rule. They also may set indirectly by restricting the number of days for which a legislator receives compensation, per diem or mileage reimbursement.

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SPECIAL SESSIONS

There are two main types of legislative sessions—regular and special (sometimes known as extraordinary). A regular session is the annual or biennial gathering of legislators, the starting date (and often, the length) of which is set by constitution or statute. Unlike regular sessions, there is no specific timing for special (or extraordinary) sessions.

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OVERVIEW | LEGISLATIVE SESSIONS

Legislative sessions may be classified into three main types—regular session, special or extraordinary sessions, and the interim.

Use the NCSL legislative session calendars to find out when legislatures held regular sessions or any special sessions for particular years.

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