Formal Organizational Sessions

Time is a scarce resource in legislative operations, especially for part-time legislatures.  From the initial stages of the legislative cycle, time management has a rippling effect.  Early organization of the legislature usually leads to more efficient use of its session days.  Some states believe that pre-session organization helps preserve short sessions and part-time schedules.

Activities that typically occur during a formal organizational session include members are sworn in; chamber and caucus leaders are elected; other chamber officers—such as the clerks of the Senate and House—are selected; if necessary, the hiring of other staff is approved; chamber rules are adopted; session schedules (deadlines) are set; the number of, the names (sometimes, jurisdictions) of and the meeting schedule for committees are established; and if possible, committee chairs and members are appointed.   In addition, chambers often hold orientation programs for new members and new committee chairs.  Sometimes, briefings on the budget, revenue outlook or other major policy issues are presented.

Examples of state constitutional provisions and statutes on formal organizational sessions are shown below.

Alabama

Constitutional Amendments 39 & 57.  … The legislature shall convene on the second Tuesday in January next succeeding their election and shall remain in session for not longer than ten consecutive calendar days. No business can be transacted at such sessions except the organization of the legislature, the election of officers and the appointment of standing committees of the senate and the house of representatives for the ensuing four years, which election and appointment may, however, also be made at such other times as may be necessary, the opening and publication of the returns and the ascertainment and declaration of the results of the election for governor, lieutenant-governor, attorney-general, state auditor, secretary of state, state treasurer, superintendent of education and commissioner of agriculture and industries, the election of such officers in the event of a tie vote, the determination of contested elections for such offices, the judging of the election returns and qualification of the members of the legislature, and the inauguration of the governor and the other elected state officers whose terms of office are concurrent with that of the governor. At the beginning of each such organization session, and at such other times as may be necessary, the senate shall elect one of its members president pro tempore thereof, to preside over its deliberations in the absence of the lieutenant-governor, and the house of representatives shall elect one of its members as speaker, to preside over its deliberations. The president of the senate and the speaker of the house of representatives shall each hold his respective office until his successor has been elected and qualified …

California

Constitution Article 4, Section 3. (a) The Legislature shall convene in regular session at noon on the first Monday in December of each even-numbered year and each house shall immediately organize …

Government Code, Section 9020.  The Legislature shall convene in regular session at the City of Sacramento at noon on the first Monday in December of each even-numbered year, and each house shall immediately organize.

Government Code, Section 9021.  The certificate of election is prima facie evidence of the right to membership.

Government Code, Section 9022.  At the day and hour appointed for the assembling of any regular session of the Legislature, the President of the Senate, or in case of his absence or inability, the senior member present, shall
take the chair, call the members and members elect to order, and have the secretary call over the senatorial districts, in their order, from which members have been elected at the preceding election.  As the districts are called the members elect shall present their certificates, take the constitutional oath of office, and assume their seats.  If a quorum is present, the Senate may then elect its officers.

Government Code, Section 9023.  At the day and hour appointed for the assembling of any regular session of the Legislature, the Chief Clerk of the Assembly, or in case of his absence or inability, the senior member elect
present, shall take the chair, call the members elect to order, and call over the roll of counties in alphabetical order.  As the counties are called the members elect shall present their certificates, take the constitutional oath of office, and assume their seats.  If there is more than one senior member elect present and the senior members are unable to agree as to who shall call the session to order, the Attorney General or one of his deputies shall call the session to order.

If a quorum is present, the Assembly shall then elect its officers, and there shall be no other business, motion or resolution considered before the election of the Speaker, save and except a motion to adjourn or a motion for a call of the house.

Government Code, Section 9024.  Members of the Legislature who did not take the oath of office at the assembling of the Legislature may take the oath at any time during the term for which they were elected.

Government Code, Section 9025.  An entry of the oath taken by members of the Legislature shall be made on the journals of the proper house.

Government Code, Section 9026.  All standing committees of either the Senate or Assembly shall be appointed by the presiding officer of their respective house if the house by resolution or its rules does not direct otherwise.

Government Code, Section 9026.5.  (a) No television signal generated by the Assembly shall be used for any political or commercial purpose, including, but not limited to, any campaign for elective public office or any campaign supporting or opposing a ballot proposition submitted to the electors.
   As used in this section, "commercial purpose" does not include either of the following:
   (1) The use of any television signal generated by the Assembly by an accredited news organization or any nonprofit organization for educational or public affairs programming.
   (2) As authorized by the Assembly, the transmission by a third party to paid subscribers of an unedited video feed of the television signal generated by the Assembly.
   (b) Any person or organization who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Florida

Constitution Article 3, Section 3. (a) ORGANIZATION SESSIONS. On the fourteenth day following each general election the legislature shall convene for the exclusive purpose of organization and selection of officers.

Idaho

Statute 67-404a. On the first Thursday of December in general election years, the members-elect of the house of representatives and senate shall meet at the state capitol in Boise for the purpose of organizing their respective houses. Members-elect shall each receive the sum of $25.00 per day not to exceed three (3) days for general expenses, and shall also be reimbursed for actual and necessary travel and lodging expenses in attending such meetings. The members-elect attending such meetings shall file with the legislative council a duly verified claim, together with paid vouchers for travel and lodging expenses actually incurred. The legislative council shall file all such claims with the appropriate state office for examination and payment of all just claims.

Indiana

Statute 2-2.1-1-2. Sec. 2. (a) The first regular session of each term of the general assembly shall convene on the third Tuesday after the first Monday of November of each even-numbered year to do the following:
(1) Organize itself.
(2) Elect its officers.
(3) Receive the oath of office.
(b) If a special session is called before the date set in subsection (a), then the organization, election, and receiving the oath of office shall be held on the first day of the special session.
(c) The general assembly shall then adjourn until a day:
(1) certain fixed by a concurrent resolution; or
(2) when the gavel of each house falls in the presence of a quorum whether or not a day certain to reconvene in session has been fixed.
(d) The general assembly shall reconvene in session no later than the second Monday in January of the following year.
(e) The first regular session of each term of the general assembly shall adjourn sine die not later than April 29 in any odd-numbered year.

Kansas

Statute 46-142.  (a) Persons elected to the house of representatives in 1976 for terms to commence in 1977, shall meet at the state capitol in Topeka on the first Monday in December in 1976, and such members-elect shall convene at 10 o'clock a.m. in the house of representatives. The secretary of state or an assistant or deputy assistant designated by the secretary of state shall call the meeting to order, and shall call the roll of the members-elect from the list certified by the state board of canvassers as provided in K.S.A. 25-3206 et seq. and shall thereupon appoint one of the members-elect to be temporary chairperson of the meeting. Upon adjournment, on the same day, the members-elect of the majority and minority parties of the house of representatives shall caucus and nominate, respectively, their candidates for speaker and speaker pro tem of the house of representatives for the next ensuing biennium, and select, respectively, their majority leader, minority leader, and other caucus or party officers. Such bodies of members-elect may determine such other matters as their parties shall deem necessary and proper and as will aid the legislature in organizing and performing its functions as soon as possible after the legislature is convened. In each even-numbered year thereafter, the members-elect of the house of representatives shall meet and caucus in the same manner and take such actions as hereinbefore indicated.
      (b)   Persons elected to the senate in 1976 for terms to commence in 1977 shall meet at the state capitol in Topeka on the first Monday in December in 1976, and such members-elect shall convene at 10 o'clock a.m. in the senate chamber. The secretary of state or an assistant or deputy assistant designated by the secretary of state shall call the meeting to order, and shall call the roll of the members-elect from the list certified by the state board of canvassers and shall thereupon appoint one of the members-elect to be temporary chairperson of the meeting. Upon adjournment, on the same day, the members-elect of the majority and minority parties of the senate shall caucus and nominate their candidates, respectively, for president and vice-president of the senate for the next ensuing four years and select, respectively, their majority leader, minority leader, and other caucus or party officers. Such bodies of members-elect may determine such other matters as their parties shall deem necessary and proper and as will aid the legislature in organizing and performing its functions as soon as possible after the legislature is convened. In each fourth year after 1976, the members-elect of the senate shall meet and caucus in the same manner and take such actions as hereinbefore indicated.
      (c)   The secretary of state, or an assistant or deputy assistant designated by the secretary of state, shall serve as temporary chairperson of the house of representatives from the moment of convening of the house of representatives until the speaker of the house of representatives has been duly elected and has taken his or her oath of office. The election of the speaker shall be the first order of business following the administration of oaths to the members.
      (d)   The secretary of state, or an assistant or deputy assistant designated by the secretary of state, shall serve as temporary chairperson of the senate from the moment of convening of the senate until the president of the senate has been duly elected and has taken his or her oath of office. The election of the president shall be the first order of business following the administration of oaths to the senators.

Kentucky

Constitution Section 36. (1) The General Assembly, in odd-numbered years, shall meet in regular session for a period not to exceed a total of thirty (30) legislative days divided as follows: The General Assembly shall convene for the first part of the session on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January in odd-numbered years for the purposes of electing legislative leaders, adopting rules of procedure, organizing committees, and introducing and considering legislation. The General Assembly shall then adjourn. The General Assembly shall convene for the second part of the session on the first Tuesday in February of that year. Any legislation introduced but not enacted in the first part of the session shall be carried over into the second part of the session. In any part of the session in an odd-numbered year, no bill raising revenue or appropriating funds shall become a law unless it shall be agreed to by three-fifths of all the members elected to each House.  …

Louisiana

Constitution Article 3, Section 2. (D)  Organizational Session.  The legislature shall meet in an organizational session in the state capitol to be convened at ten o'clock in the morning on the day the members are required to take office.  No such session shall exceed three legislative days.  The session shall be for the primary purpose of judging the qualifications and elections of the members, taking the oath of office, organizing the two houses, and selecting officers.  No matter intended to have the effect of law shall be introduced at an organizational session.


Constitution Article 3, Section 5.(A)  Full Term.  Members of the legislature shall take office on the same day as the governor and other officials elected statewide.
(B)  Filling Vacancy.  A person elected to fill the remainder of an unexpired legislative term shall take office within thirty days after the secretary of state promulgates the election returns.

Constitution Article 4, Section 3. (A)  Election.  Except as provided in Section 20 of this Article, the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of insurance, superintendent of education, and commissioner of elections each shall be elected for a term of four years by the electors of the state at the time and place of voting for members of the legislature.  The term of each such official shall begin at noon on the second Monday in January next following the election.

Maine

Constitution Article 4, Part 3, Section 1. The Legislature shall convene on the first Wednesday of December following the general election in what shall be designated the first regular session of the Legislature …

Statute Title 3, Chapter 1, Subchapter 2, Section 21.  The Secretary of the preceding Senate, at the time and place appointed for the meeting of the Legislature, shall call the Senators-elect present to order, and from the certified roll furnished him call their names, and if a quorum respond, he shall preside until they are qualified and a President is elected. If no quorum appear he shall preside, and the Senators-elect present shall adjourn from day to day, but shall transact no business, except to go into convention to fill vacancies, until a quorum appear and are qualified and a President is elected. After the election of the President, the Senate shall proceed to elect by ballot a secretary and an assistant secretary.
 
In case of vacancy in the office of such secretary or his absence or inability to perform the duties, the said duties shall be performed by his assistant.

If the Secretary of the Senate and his assistant are absent at the time set for convening the Senate, their duties shall be performed by the Secretary of State or his deputy.

Statute Title 3, Chapter 1, Subchapter 3, Section 41.  The Clerk of the preceding House of Representatives in the same manner as provided for the Senate shall call the Representatives-elect to order and preside until they are qualified and elect a Speaker. If no quorum appear he shall preside, and the Representatives-elect present shall adjourn from day to day until a quorum appear and are qualified and a Speaker is elected. After the election of the Speaker, the House of Representatives shall proceed to elect by ballot a clerk and an assistant clerk. All revenues received by the document clerk in the performance of his duties shall be credited to the General Fund.  

In case of vacancy in the office of such clerk, or his absence or inability to perform the duties aforesaid, the said duties shall be performed by his assistant.  

If the Clerk of the House and his assistant are absent at the time set for convening the House, their duties shall be performed by the Secretary of State or his deputy. 

New Hampshire

Constitution Part 2, Article 3. The senate and house shall assemble biennially on the first Wednesday of December for organizational purposes in even numbered years, …

Statute 14:2-b.  Organizational Convening. – Pursuant to the constitution, the general court shall assemble biennially on the first Wednesday of December following the biennial election for organizational purposes. At such assembly, the senate and the house shall take the oath of office, elect the secretary of state, the state treasurer and such other officers and employees, adopt such organizational procedures and rules and perform such other organizational business as they deem necessary. The nomination of the secretary of state and the state treasurer may be by any member of the general court and shall be without regard to the party affiliation of the candidate. The election of the secretary of state or of the state treasurer shall be conducted without regard to the party affiliation of the candidates and by secret ballots, if more than one person is nominated for election to such position.

North Carolina

Excerpt from Senate Bill 847—enacted by Legislature, signed by Governor 7/17/2012, Ch. SL 2012-194
SECTION 66.5.(a) G.S. 120-11.1 reads as rewritten:
"§ 120-11.1. Time of meeting.
The regular session of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be held biennially beginning at 9:00 A.M. on the second Wednesday in January next after their election, and on that day they shall meet solely to elect officers, adopt rules, and otherwise organize the session. When they adjourn that day, they stand adjourned until 12:00 noon on the third Wednesday after the second Monday in January next after their election."

North Dakota

Constitution Article 4, Section 7.  … The legislative assembly shall meet at the seat of government in the month of December following the election of members thereof for organizational and orientation purposes as provided by law and shall thereafter recess until twelve noon on the first Tuesday after the third day in January …

Statute 54-03.1-02.  Time and place of meeting - Who must attend. In each even-numbered year on the first Monday in the month of December or on a date selected by the legislative council but not earlier than December first nor later than December fifteenth, all persons elected at the previous November general election as members of the succeeding legislative session, and members whose terms do not expire until the first day of December following the next November general election, shall meet in the state capitol in the city of Bismarck, or at such other place as may be designated, at a time designated by the legislative council for the purpose of conducting an organizational session. The legislative council shall call the organizational session and make such arrangements as may be necessary for its operation.

Statute 54-03.1-03.  Agenda. The agenda of the organizational session must include the following:
1. Orientation classes upon legislative rules and procedure for new legislators;
2. Presentation of reports by legislative interim committees or commissions;
3. Party caucuses to review proposed legislative rules and committee assignments, as appropriate;
4. Appointment of procedural committees;
5. Presentation of the budget and revenue proposals recommended by the governor as provided in section 54-44.1-07; and
6. All other similar matters, in order that the legislative assembly be fully organized and ready to begin its business by the first day of the regular session.

Ohio

Constitution Article 2, Section 7.   Organization of the House of Representatives.  The mode of organizing each House of the general assembly shall be prescribed by law.   Each House, except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, shall choose its own officers. The presiding officer in the Senate shall be designated as president of the Senate and in the House of Representatives as speaker of the House of Representatives.  Each House shall determine its own rules of proceeding.

Statute 101.01.  Commencement of regular legislative sessions; senate called to order; oath of office.
(A)  The first regular session of each general assembly shall convene on the first Monday of January in the odd-numbered year, or on the succeeding day if the first Monday of January is a legal holiday, and in second regular session on the same date of the following year. The second regular session of each general assembly shall be in a continuum of the first regular session. At the second regular session, the general assembly shall consider matters held over from the first regular session, revenue and appropriation bills, and other measures agreed to by a majority of the members elected to either house or recommended by the governor in a public proclamation or a message to the general assembly.
(B)  At one-thirty p.m. of the day specified for the beginning of the first regular session of the general assembly, the president of the senate during the preceding biennium or in the case of his absence or inability to act, the president pro tempore of the senate during the preceding biennium shall take the chair and call the senate to order. He shall also call the senatorial districts in their numerical order, and as they are called the persons claiming to be senators-elect therefrom shall present their certificates and take the oath of office.  If neither the president nor the president pro tempore designated in this division is available to preside at the beginning of the first regular session, the senators and senators-elect shall designate by party caucus the person who shall preside over the organization of the senate.

Statute 101.1.  House called to order; appointment of clerk pro tempore; presentation of certificates; oath of office.  At two p.m. of the day appointed for the beginning of the first regular session of the general assembly, the speaker of the house of representatives during the preceding biennium or in his absence, the speaker pro tempore of the house of representatives during the preceding biennium shall take the chair, call the representatives-elect to order, and appoint one of them clerk pro tempore. He also shall call the districts in numerical order and, as they are called, the representatives-elect therefrom shall present their certificates and take the oath of office.

Oklahoma

Constitution Article 5, Section 26.  Regular sessions.  The Legislature shall meet in regular session at the seat of government at twelve o'clock noon on the first Monday in February of each year and the regular session shall be finally adjourned sine die not later than five o'clock p.m. on the last Friday in May of each year.

The Legislature shall also meet in regular session at the seat of government on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January of each odd numbered year, beginning at twelve o'clock noon for the purposes only of performing the duties as required by Section 5 of Article VI of the Constitution and organizing pursuant to the provisions of this Article and shall recess not later than five o'clock p.m. of that same day until the following first Monday in February of the same year, beginning at twelve o'clock noon.

Oregon

Constitution Article 4, Section 10. Annual regular sessions of the Legislative Assembly; organizational session; extension of regular sessions. (1) The Legislative Assembly shall hold annual sessions at the Capitol of the State. Each session must begin on the day designated by law as the first day of the session. Except as provided in subsection (3) of this section:
(a) A session beginning in an odd-numbered year may not exceed 160 calendar days in duration; and
(b) A session beginning in an even-numbered year may not exceed 35 calendar days in duration.
(2) The Legislative Assembly may hold an organizational session that is not subject to the limits of subsection (1) of this section for the purposes of introducing measures and performing the duties and effecting the organization described in sections 11 and 12 of this Article. The Legislative Assembly may not undertake final consideration of a measure or reconsideration of a measure following a gubernatorial veto when convened in an organizational session.
(3) A regular session, as described in subsection (1) of this section, may be extended for a period of five calendar days by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of each house. A session may be extended more than once. An extension must begin on the first calendar day after the end of the immediately preceding session or extension except that if the first calendar day is a Sunday, the extension may begin on the next Monday. [Constitution of 1859; Amendment proposed by S.J.R. 41, 2010, and adopted by the people Nov. 2, 2010]

Constitution Article 4, Section 11.  Legislative officers; rules of proceedings; adjournments. Each house when assembled, shall choose its own officers, judge of the election, qualifications, and returns of its own members; determine its own rules of proceeding, and sit upon its own adjournments; but neither house shall without the concurrence of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which it may be sitting.—

Constitution Article 4, Section 12.  Quorum; failure to effect organization. Two thirds of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may meet; adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members. A quorum being in attendance, if either house fail to effect an organization within the first five days thereafter, the members of the house so failing shall be entitled to no compensation from the end of the said five days until an organization shall have been effected.

South Carolina

Constitution Article 3, Section 9.  … Provided, That the House of Representatives shall meet on the first Tuesday following the certification of the election of its members for not more than three days following the general election in even-numbered years for the purpose of organizing. …

Tennessee

Constitution Article 2, Section 8.  … the General Assembly shall meet in organizational session on the second Tuesday in January next succeeding the election of the members of the House of Representatives, at which session, if in order, the governor shall be inaugurated. The General Assembly shall remain in session for organizational purposes not longer than fifteen consecutive calendar days, during which session no legislation shall be passed on third and final consideration. Thereafter, the General Assembly shall meet on the first Tuesday next following the conclusion of the organizational session unless the General Assembly by joint resolution of both houses sets an earlier date.   …

West Virginia

Constitution Article 6, Section 18.  Time and place of assembly of Legislature.   The Legislature shall assemble annually at the seat of government, and not oftener unless convened by the governor. Regular sessions of the Legislature shall commence on the second Wednesday of January of each year.  Upon the convening of the Legislature in each odd-numbered year, each house shall proceed to organize by the election of its officers for two-year terms and both houses shall then in joint assembly open and publish the election returns delivered to the Legislature as prescribed by other provisions of this constitution and by general law.  When all of these matters have been completed in the year one thousand nine hundred seventy-three and every fourth year thereafter, the Legislature shall adjourn until the second Wednesday of February following.  Notwithstanding the provisions of section fifty-one of this article and any other provisions of this constitution, on and after the effective date hereof, there shall be submitted by the governor to the Legislature, on the second Wednesday of February in the year one thousand nine hundred seventy-three and every fourth year thereafter, and on the second Wednesday of January of all other years, unless a later time in any year be fixed by the Legislature, a budget for the next ensuing fiscal year and a bill for the proposed appropriations of such budget.

Wisconsin

Statute 13.02.  (1) The legislature shall convene in the capitol on the first Monday of January in each odd-numbered year, at 2 p.m., to take the oath of office, select officers, and do all other things necessary to organize itself for the conduct of its business, but if the first Monday of January falls on January 1 or 2, the actions here required shall be taken on January 3.
(2) The regular session of the legislature shall commence at 2 p.m. on the first Tuesday after the 8th day of January in each year unless otherwise provided under sub. (3).
(3) Early in each biennial session period, the joint committee on legislative organization shall meet and develop a work schedule for the legislative session, which shall include at least one meeting in January of each year, to be submitted to the legislature as a joint resolution.
(4) Any measures introduced in the regular annual session of the odd-numbered year which do not receive final action shall carry over to the regular annual session held in the even-numbered year.