April 20, 2004
SINE DIE ADJOURNMENT CEREMONIES
By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst
You asked if other states have special ceremonies or rituals to mark the sine die adjournments of their legislative sessions and, if so, what they are.
A 1997 survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) found only eight states, including Connecticut, that have any special actions to mark the final adjournment of their regular legislative sessions. The other states are: California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Nebraska, Oregon, and Washington. Of this group, three have rituals to assure that the House and Senate adjourn at the exact same time and one maintains a ceremony that originally started as a mark of a simultaneous adjournment. In two states, the ceremony requires the presiding officer of each house to drop a handkerchief to mark adjournment and in two states, the presiding officers simultaneously pound gavels.
The other states lower the state flag, stop the clock, and play a traditional state song.
The California Senate marks its sine die adjournment by stopping the Senate clock just before midnight. According to Kay Warnock of NCSL, Oklahoma also used to do this, but stopped when the practice was found to be unconstitutional.
With the House and Senate meeting in a joint convention, the secretary of the state recites “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez,” pounds the gavel, and declares the legislature adjourned sine die.
The House speaker and the Senate president pro tempore meet in the Capitol rotunda and each one drops a handkerchief to mark the end of the session. They then toast each other with cups of Florida orange juice.
The Georgia House and Senate chambers face each other across the Capitol rotunda. At the end of their session, the main doors of each chamber are opened so the House speaker and Senate presiding officer (lieutenant governor) can see one another. They then simultaneously drop handkerchiefs to mark the adjournment.
The Hawaii legislature meets in joint session. The presiding officer declares the session adjourned and then a traditional Hawaiian song is played.
Nebraska has a unicameral legislature. When its presiding officer adjourns the session sine die, the state flag over the Capitol is lowered.
Oregon's House and Senate chambers are across from each other. When the time comes for adjournment, the sergeants at arms open the chamber doors and the presiding officer of each chamber simultaneously pounds the gavel.
Washington uses the same procedure as Oregon. The doors of each chamber are opened and the presiding officers adjourn the House and Senate simultaneously by pounding their gavels.