House of Representatives
The larger house, and arguably the more representative one, of Tennessee's bicameral legislature is called the House of Representatives. It occupies the largest space in the State Capitol known as the House Chamber seen at left. The state is divided into 99 House districts from each of which one representative is elected. In 2002 each district was comprised on average of 56,000 residents. The House goes through a re-districting process every 10 years.
Representatives are elected to two-year terms with all representatives standing for election at the same time. This is consistent with the practice in all other states with the exceptions of Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, and Mississippi which allow representatives to serve four-year terms.
To qualify for election to the House, one must be 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, a state resident for three years, and a resident of the county in which elected for one year immediately preceding the election.
The residency requirement is practically universal since only New York has no such prerequisite.
During the organizational session of the House, a speaker and a speaker pro tempore are elected. The speaker pro tempore acts in the absence of the speaker, but the speaker has the right to name any member to perform the duties of the chair for a period not to exceed one legislative day.
Other leaders in the House of Representatives include the majority and minority leaders who are the chief floor spokespersons for their respective political parties. In addition, the Democratic and Republican Caucus chairpersons occupy significant roles in directing meetings of their party members.
The House of Representatives has non-lawmaking powers that are distinct from the Senate's authority. For example, the House has the sole power to originate impeachment proceedings against public officials, who then are brought before the Senate for trial. In such event, the House elects three of its own members to prosecute the case before the Senate.
The House also functions in a similar capacity to that of the Senate in several ways. For instance, after the general election, the House is the sole judge of the qualifications of its members and may determine its own rules of proceedings. Furthermore, the House, like the Senate, is free to adopt resolutions regarding virtually any issue concerning the state, country or world community.
The 108th General Assembly will convene on January 8, 2013.