December 5, 2007
SPECIAL SESSION NOTIFICATION
By: Daniel Duffy, Principal Analyst
You asked how (1) other state legislatures call themselves into special session and (2) they notify legislators that a special session has been called by either the governor or legislative leaders.
The Connecticut General Assembly may call itself into special session with the agreement of a simple majority of the members of each house. In the 32 other states in which the legislature may call itself into special session, nine require the agreement of a simple majority in each house and one requires the agreement of a simple majority of each political party. Four require the agreement of three-fifths of the members in each house and 13 require the agreement of two-thirds. Three states allow their legislative leaders to call a special session on their own authority and two states have optional procedures.
Connecticut is one of only two states that have a formal, statutory procedure for notifying legislators of a special session, according to an American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries survey. The other states follow procedures established by custom and use letters, telephones, facsimile messages, and e-mail.
Calling a Special Session
The Connecticut General Assembly may call itself into special session (Article III, § 2, Connecticut Constitution). The statutes establish procedures for doing so. They provide that after adjournment sine die of a regular or special session, the members may notify the secretary of the state in writing that they judge it necessary to meet again. Each member's notice is valid for 30 days after signing it. The secretary, after receiving valid notices from a majority of legislators in each house, must forthwith notify all members to meet in their respective chambers at 10:00 a.m. on a date that is 10 to 15 days after the notices are sent. The law requires the secretary to give notice in the same way that the governor customarily gives notice of a special session. When assembled, the two houses may organize after first voting that convening is a necessity and specifying in the vote the facts that make doing so necessary. The law specifies that it does not limit the General Assembly's power to convene in any other constitutional manner when it judges it necessary to do so (CGS § 2-6).
The law requires the secretary of the state, whenever the governor, members of the General Assembly, or the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives call a special session, to send the special session notice by (1) first class, certified mail at least 10 but not more than 15 days before the session is convened or (2) causing a true copy to be delivered by a state marshal, constable, state policeman, or indifferent person at least 24 hours before the session is convened (CGS § 2-7(a)).
Who Can Call Special Sessions
Legislatures in 33 states have the authority to call themselves into special session. In the other states, only the governor has the authority. Of the 33 states, 22 do not limit the length of a special session by restricting the number of calendar or legislative days. (Inside the Legislative Process, 2004, pp. 2-170 and 2-179). Connecticut is one of the eleven states in which the legislature may call itself into a special session of unlimited duration. (Copies of the relevant portion of the book are enclosed.)
Connecticut is also one of six states that restrict the scope of a regular session. Like the other states (Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Wyoming), the scope of a regular session in one year of the biennium is restricted to fiscal matters. The legislatures in all six of these states may call themselves into special session. The law does not limit the duration of the special sessions in Connecticut and three of these states (Maine, North Carolina, and Wyoming).
Legislative Procedures for Calling Special Sessions
In most states, the legislature calls itself into special session by the assent of its members of each house. Nine of the 32 other states in which the legislature can call itself into special session require a simple majority of the members of both houses to give their assent. Maine requires a simple majority of the members of each political party to issue a special session call. Four states require the assent of three-fifths of the members and 13 require the assent of two-thirds of their members.
In three states, the presiding officers have sole legislative authority to call a special session (Delaware, Illinois, and Ohio). These states do not require that there be a petition from or vote by the members.
In Florida, special sessions may be called either by the legislative leaders or by three-fifths of the members of both houses of the legislature. In Wisconsin, a special session may be called by (1) the committee on organization in each house, (2) adoption of a concurrent resolution by each house, or (3) a joint petition of a majority of members in each house.
Sending Notices of Special Sessions
Thirteen states responded to a survey conducted through the electronic listserv of the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries. The questions asked were (1) who notifies the legislators of the special session, (2) how are they notified, and (3) is the process established by statute, rule, policy, or tradition.
For most of the respondent states, the notification process is informal and established by tradition. Illinois is the only state that, like Connecticut, prescribes the notification process in statute. Illinois requires notices to be sent by certified mail.
The other states use letters, telephone messages, facsimile messages, and e-mail. (A copy of the survey result and the Illinois statute are enclosed.)