Each year, the General Assembly must convene the regular legislative session at 10:00 a.m. no later than the second Wednesday in January. Once convened, the legislative session must adjourn sine die within 120 calendar days. Any legislation introduced during the regular legislative session that is not concluded by midnight on the 120th day is dead.
The General Assembly may meet in a special legislative session:
• If called by the Governor but only to address the issues identified by the Governor in the call; or
• If called by a letter signed by two-thirds of the members of each house and submitted to the presiding officer of each house but only to address the issues specified in the letter.
At the beginning of the first regular legislative session after a general election, and at other times if necessary, the Senate must elect one of its members to serve as President and the House must elect one of its members to serve as Speaker. They will each serve until their successor is elected. Each chamber chooses its other officers and judges the election and qualification of its members.
The House and Senate each adopts its own rules to govern procedure, punish members for contempt, enforce obedience to the process, and protect members from violence or offers of bribes. With a 2/3 vote, the House or Senate may expel one of its members. And the House and the Senate each have all other powers necessary for the legislature of a free state.
Each introduced bill must be assigned to a committee of reference, and the committee must consider the bill on its merits and take a vote on the bill. A motion to report the bill favorably out of the committee, with or without amendments, is always in order within the appropriate deadlines.
Each bill that's reported to the committee of the whole must be placed on the calendar in the order in which it was reported and within appropriate deadlines. This provision is commonly referred to as the GAVEL ("Give a Vote to Every Legislator") Amendment.
When a bill is introduced, only the title is read into the record. Before the bill can become law, it must be read at length on two different days in each house, unless the members present at each reading unanimously consent to a reading of only the bill title. In each chamber, all of the substantial amendments that the members make to the bill must be printed for each member's use before the chamber takes a final vote on the bill. A bill cannot become law unless a majority of the members in each chamber vote for the bill on two separate days in each chamber and the ayes and noes on the vote for final passage in each chamber are recorded in the appropriate journal.
This leads to the requirement that it takes at least three days to pass a bill:
• Day one: Introduce the bill in the first house, hear the bill in committee, and pass the bill on second reading in the first house.
• Day two: Pass the bill on third reading in the first house, introduce the bill in the second house, hear the bill in committee, and pass the bill on second reading in the second house.
• Day three: Pass the bill on third reading in the second house and, if necessary, resolve any differences between the versions passed by each house and readopt the bill in each house.
A legislator, by voting in a caucus meeting or a similar proceeding, cannot commit himself or herself or any other legislator to vote for or against a bill, to confirm or not confirm a governor's appointment, to override a veto, or to vote for or against any other measure or issue pending or proposed to be introduced in the General Assembly.
A majority of the elected members (33 in the House; 18 in the Senate) must agree in order for the House or the Senate to concur in the amendments made in the second house, accede to the amendments made in the first house, or adopt a conference committee report. Each legislator's vote must be recorded in the journal.
Every joint resolution and joint memorial must be sent to the Governor for approval or veto, except for joint resolutions that apply to adjournment or relate solely to the transaction of business by the General Assembly. If the Governor vetoes a joint resolution or joint memorial, it can be repassed by a 2/3 vote in each house in the same manner as a bill.