Special Sessions

Special sessions are addressed in Vermont's Constitution. The Governor has the power "to call together the General Assembly, when necessary, before the day to which they shall stand adjourned” (Chapter II, Section 20, Vermont Constitution). That language has remained unchanged from the original 1777 Constitution, where it can be found in Chapter II, Section XVIII. In the 1786 Constitution it is in Chapter II, Section XI, and it was in Chapter II, Section 11 when the 1793 Constitution was first ratified.

A governor calls for a special session through a proclamation setting the date and a brief statement on the necessity for the session. Usually the governor will address the special session, elaborating on the reason for calling the session.

There is no definition of what constitutes “when necessary” and special sessions, also known as extraordinary or extra sessions, have been called for a variety of reasons. The first special session was called in 1857, in response to the first statehouse fire. There have been, as of June 2018, 27 special sessions. The most common reasons for calling special sessions have been fiscal issues, federal legislation, war, and natural disaster.

Special sessions are not a continuation of the regular session, however, since 2005 the distinctions between special and regular sessions have begun to blur. Usually a special session must deal with new matters, excluding bills introduced in the regular or adjourned sessions. Recent legislative rules changes have allowed bills from the regular session to be taken up during the special session.

Bills introduced but not enacted during the special session die and do not become pending when the legislature reconvenes. Special session bills and acts are numbered from one forward, such as House Bill No. 1, Senate Bill No. 1, Act No. 1, etc. There is no set duration for a special session. In 1966 the special session lasted 66 days. Most special sessions run for less than a week, most often they are completed within a couple of days.

Special sessions are different than veto sessions. A veto session occurs if the legislature, as part of its adjournment resolution, includes language allowing it to reconvene to address any vetoes. Veto session language started in 1995 but has not been uniformly added as part of adjournment. As of 2018, there have been six veto sessions.

This page was last updated: 2018-10-01