Tennessee State Senate
|Tennessee State Senate|
|2015 session start:||January 13, 2015|
|Website:||Official Senate Page|
|Senate President:||Ron Ramsey (R)|
|Majority Leader:||Mark Norris (R)|
|Minority leader:||Vacant (D)|
Democratic Party (5)
Republican Party (29)
|Length of term:||4 years|
|Authority:||Art II, Sec 2, Tennessee Constitution|
|Salary:||$19,009/year + per diem|
|Last Election:||November 4, 2014 (18 seats)|
|Next election:||November 8, 2016|
|Redistricting:||Tennessee legislature has control|
- 1 Sessions
- 2 Ethics and transparency
- 3 Elections
- 4 Redistricting
- 5 Senators
- 6 Senate Committees
- 7 History
- 8 External links
- 9 References
As of February 2015, Tennessee is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.
The Tennessee General Assembly, which the Senate is a part of, convenes on the second Tuesday in January on the years following elections as outlined by Article II, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution. The legislature is limited to 90 paid legislative days within a two year term.
- See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions
In 2015, the Legislature will be in session from January 13 through late-April .
Major issues for the 2015 legislative session include health, education and finances. Of particular focus will be Governor Bill Haslam's "Insure Tennessee" plan. The two-year pilot program would give access to healthcare coverage to those living in the state that do not currently have health insurance or limited options.
- See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions
In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 14 through April 18.
Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included education, guns in work parking lots, and requiring prescriptions for drugs used to make methamphetamine.
- See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 8 through April 19. Republicans had a supermajority for the first time since the Civil War era.
Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included guns, school vouchers, and tax cuts to wine in grocery stores.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
In 2012, the Senate was in session from January 10 through May 1.
Republican legislators began the session by passing new congressional and state legislative maps, but redistricting may remain a major issue as Democrats have threatened a lawsuit over the new districts. Republican leaders said the session will focus on job creation and eliminating policies and regulations that restrict businesses, including the inheritance tax, and reforming unemployment insurance.
- See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions
In 2011, the Senate was in session from January 11 through May 21.
- See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions
In 2010, the Senate was in regular session from January 12th to June 10th. Additionally, the General Assembly met in special session from January 12th to January 25th to deal with educational issues related to Race to the Top funds.
Role in state budget
- See also: Tennessee state budget and finances
- Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in August of the year preceding the start of the new fiscal year.
- State agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in October.
- Agency hearings are held in November. Public hearings are held in November and December.
- The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature in February.
- The legislature typically adopts a budget in April or May. A simple majority is required to pass a budget. The fiscal year begins July 1.
The governor is legally required to submit a balanced budget proposal. Likewise, the legislature is legally required to adopt a balanced budget.
The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 which indicated that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. Among the challenges states faced were a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Tennessee was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.
Ethics and transparency
Following the Money report
- See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014
The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending. According to the report, Tennessee received a grade of B and a numerical score of 83, indicating that Tennessee was "advancing" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.
Open States Transparency
The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Tennessee was given a grade of C in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data is to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A -- Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
- See also: Tennessee State Senate elections, 2014
Elections for 18 seats in the Tennessee State Senate took place in 2014. A primary election took place on August 7, 2014. A general election took place on November 4, 2014. The signature-filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in this election was April 3, 2014.
- See also: Tennessee State Senate elections, 2012
The signature filing deadline was April 5, 2012.
The following table details the 8 districts with the smallest margin of victory in the November 6 general election.
|2012 Margin of Victory, Tennessee State Senate|
|District||Winner||Margin of Victory||Total Votes||Top Opponent|
|District 22||Mark Green||6.2%||60,220||Tim Barnes|
|District 20||Steven Dickerson||8.2%||85,534||Phillip North|
|District 10||Todd Gardenhire||8.6%||67,302||Andrae McGary|
|District 28||Joey Hensley||10.3%||67,736||Tyler Cobb|
|District 24||John Stevens||12.9%||68,474||Brad Thompson|
|District 26||Dolores Gresham||20.9%||71,121||Meryl Rice|
|District 16||Janice Bowling||25.9%||63,775||Jim Lewis|
|District 6||Becky Duncan Massey||37.3%||72,435||Evelyn Gill|
- See also: Tennessee State Senate elections, 2010
Elections for the office of Tennessee state Senate were held in Tennessee on November 2, 2010. The signature-filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in these elections was April 1, 2010 and the primary Election Day was on August 5, 2010.
In 2010, the candidates for state senate raised a total of $4,275,730 in campaign contributions. The top 10 donors were:
|2010 Donors, Tennessee State Senate|
|Tennessee Democratic Party||$120,434|
|Herron, Governor Roy||$116,058|
|Tennessee Medical Association||$98,600|
|Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association||$61,250|
|Tennessee Bankers Association||$52,500|
|Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee||$46,000|
|Farris Mathews Branan Bobango & Hellen||$44,050|
- See also: Tennessee State Senate elections, 2008
Elections for the office of Tennessee State Senate consisted of a primary election on August 7, 2008, and a general election on November 4, 2008.
During the 2008 election, the total value of contributions to House candidates was $7,905,028. The top 10 contributors were:
|2008 Donors, Tennessee State Senate|
|Tennessee Legislative Campaign Cmte||$235,338|
|Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association||$197,000|
|Senate Republican Caucus of Tennessee||$129,500|
|Tennessee Medical Association||$116,750|
|Tennessee Association of Realtors||$115,000|
|Tennessee Keep Your Legislature Efficient||$107,400|
|Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 572||$98,775|
|Senate Democratic Caucus of Tennessee||$96,200|
|Tennessee Healthcare Association||$84,500|
- See also: Tennessee State Senate elections, 2006
Elections for the office of Tennessee State Senate consisted of a primary election on August 3, 2006, and a general election on November 7, 2006.
During the 2006 election, the total value of contributions to House candidates was $5,784,749. The top 10 contributors were:
|2006 Donors, Tennessee State Senate|
|Senate Democratic Caucus of Tennessee||$235,654|
|Senate Republican Caucus of Tennessee||$214,000|
|Throckmorton III, Ray (Chip) T||$161,616|
|Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association||$112,500|
|Tennessee Medical Association||$71,700|
|Tennessee Republican Caucus||$70,000|
|National Healthcare Corp||$67,500|
- See also: Tennessee State Senate elections, 2004
Elections for the office of Tennessee State Senate consisted of a primary election on August 5, 2004, and a general election on November 2, 2004.
During the 2004 election, the total value of contributions to House candidates was $6,713,113. The top 10 contributors were:
|2004 Donors, Tennessee State Senate|
|Wilder Sr, John S||$335,000|
|Tennessee Legislative Campaign Cmte||$283,382|
|Senate Democratic Caucus of Tennessee||$160,800|
|Graves, Jo Ann||$120,850|
|Tennessee Conservative PAC||$93,500|
|Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association||$68,000|
|Senate Republican Caucus||$65,000|
|Tennessee Medical Association||$60,250|
- See also: Tennessee State Senate elections, 2002
Elections for the office of Tennessee State Senate consisted of a primary election on August 1, 2002, and a general election on November 5, 2002.
During the 2002 election, the total value of contributions to House candidates was $3,260,212. The top 10 contributors were:
|2002 Donors, Tennessee State Senate|
|Tennessee Legislative Campaign Cmte||$174,377|
|Senate Democratic Caucus Of Tennessee||$146,299|
|Tennessee Democratic Party||$92,056|
|Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association||$92,000|
|Tennessee Medical Association||$66,679|
|Tennessee Education Association||$60,311|
|Tennessee Employees Action Movement||$53,000|
|National Healthcare Corp||$48,500|
|Tennessee Bankers Association||$43,000|
- See also: Tennessee State Senate elections, 2000
Elections for the office of Tennessee State Senate consisted of a primary election on August 3, 2000, and a general election on November 7, 2000.
During the 2000 election, the total value of contributions to House candidates was $5,777,169. The top 10 contributors were:
|2000 Donors, Tennessee State Senate|
|Tennessee Republican Assembly PAC||$106,650|
|Senate Democratic Caucus of Tennessee||$105,647|
|Wall, Howard D||$101,150|
|Tennessee Legislative Campaign Cmte||$96,893|
|Tennessee Democratic Party||$96,215|
|Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association||$94,707|
|Tennessee Education Association||$54,441|
|Tennessee Employees Action Movement||$50,000|
To be eligible to serve in the Tennessee State Senate, a candidate must be:
- A U.S. citizen
- 30 years old before the general election
- A three-year resident of Tennessee before the general election
- A district resident for 1 year prior to the general election
- A qualified voter
- The following situations would eliminate a candidate from qualifying for office:
- Those who have been convicted of offering or giving a bribe, or of larceny, or any other offense declared infamous by law, unless restored to citizenship in the mode pointed out by law;
- Those against whom there is a judgment unpaid for any moneys received by them, in any official capacity, due to the United States, to this state, or any county thereof;
- Those who are defaulters to the treasury at the time of the election, and the election of any such person shall be void;
- Soldiers, seamen, marines, or airmen in the regular army or navy or air force of the United States; and
- Members of congress, and persons holding any office of profit or trust under any foreign power, other state of the union, or under the United States.
| How Vacancies are filled in State Legislatures |
In Tennessee, there are two ways a vacancy can be filled in the senate. When twelve months or more remain in a unfilled term, a special election must be held within the allowable time frame set by law. If less than twelve months remain in the term, the current members of the senate must vote on a replacement.
- See also: Redistricting in Tennessee
The state's redistricting process is handled by the General Assembly, with the Governor wielding veto power.
The redistricting process began in January 2012; it was the first time in the state's history where the process was controlled entirely by Republicans. The two chambers passed maps, both of which Governor Bill Haslam signed. While Senate Democrats threatened a lawsuit, House Democrats went through with filing one in March, arguing that the House map unnecessarily split too many counties.
- See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries
As of 2013, members of the Tennessee Legislature are paid $19,009/year. Legislators receive $173/day per diem tied to the federal rate.
When sworn in
Tennessee legislators assume office the 15th of January following the election.
- See also: Partisan composition of state senates
|Party||As of February 2015|
The membership of the Senate elects a presiding officer, known as the Speaker of the Senate. The Speaker also serves as Lieutenant Governor. The Speaker appoints the officers of the Senate as well as the officers and membership of the standing committees.
|Current Leadership, Tennessee State Senate|
|Speaker of the Senate||Ron Ramsey||Republican|
|State Senate Speaker Pro Tempore||Bo Watson||Republican|
|Deputy Speaker of the Senate||Steve Southerland||Republican|
|State Senate Majority Leader||Mark Norris||Republican|
|State Senate Majority Caucus Leader||Bill Ketron||Republican|
|State Senate Minority Leader||Vacant||Democratic|
|State Senate Minority Caucus Leader||TBA||Democratic|
List of current members
Tennessee Senate has 9 standing committees:
- Commerce and Labor
- Energy, Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Finance, Ways And Means
- Government Operations
- Health and Welfare
- State and Local Government
- Transportation and Safety
Partisan balance 1992-2013
From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Tennessee State Senate for 12 years while the Republicans were the majority for eight years. Tennessee was under Republican trifectas for the final three years of the study.
Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.
Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.
SQLI and partisanship
The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Tennessee state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Tennessee experienced both Democratic and Republican trifectas during the years of the study. Its best ranking, finishing 21st, occurred in 2012 during a Republican trifecta. Its worst ranking, finishing 40th, occurred in 2004 during a Democratic trifecta.
- SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 34.00
- SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 23.00
- SQLI average with divided government: 31.71
- census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
- U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
- Dave Boucher, The Tennessean, "As Haslam officially sworn in, battles await," January 17, 2015
- UT Advocacy, "109th Tennessee General Assembly Begins," January 13, 2015
- Commercial Appeal, "Guns, wine, vouchers again in Tennessee legislature," January 5, 2013
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
- Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
- U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
- Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Tennessee Senate 2010 Campaign Contributions," accessed August 2, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Tennessee 2008 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Tennessee 2006 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Tennessee 2004 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Tennessee 2002 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Tennessee 2000 Candidates," accessed August 2, 2013
- Tennessee Secretary of State, "Qualifications for elected offices in Tennessee," accessed December 18, 2013
- Tennessee Legislature, "Tennessee Constitution," accessed December 18, 2013(Referenced Section Article II, Section 15)
- U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Tennessee's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," March 16, 2011 (timed out)
- USA Today, "Census 2010 - Tennessee," accessed July 11, 2012
- NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
- Tennessee General Assembly, "About the Tennessee Legislature," accessed August 2, 2014
- Tennessee General Assembly, "Leadership of the Tennessee Senate," accessed August 2, 2014
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