Tennessee is divided into thirty-three state senatorial districts from which the members of the upper house of the Tennessee General Assembly are elected. Senators serve four-year terms, with those from even-numbered districts being elected in the same general election, and those from odd-numbered districts being elected two years later. Senators may be elected for consecutive terms, and Tennessee does not impose term limits on either the House or the Senate. The Tennessee Constitution requires a senator to be at least thirty years old, a U.S. citizen, a state resident for three years, and a resident of the district from which the senator is elected for one year immediately preceding the election.
At the organizational session of the general assembly, the Senate elects a Speaker, who is also the state’s lieutenant governor. At the same session, the Senate also elects the Speaker pro tempore, deputy Speaker, and the majority and minority leaders, who are the primary spokesmen for their parties. The chairs of the Democratic and Republican Party caucuses preside over party meetings to consider and formulate party policy. Currently, the Speaker of the Senate is John S. Wilder, a Democrat from Fayette County.
Most of the work of the Senate is accomplished through the activities of the nine legislative committees, which study proposed legislation, hold public hearings, and recommend passage to the entire Senate. The Speaker of the Senate exerts considerable control over the legislative process through committee appointments. The nine standing committees of the Senate include: Commerce, Labor and Agriculture; Education; Environment, Conservation and Tourism; Finance, Ways and Means; General Welfare, Health, and Human Resources; Government Operations; Judiciary; State and Local Government; and Transportation. In addition, there are three select committees: Calendar, Ethics, and Rules.
The Senate, like the House, has the primary function of lawmaking. The Senate has the additional power to try impeachment proceedings initiated by the House. Any officer of the state may be impeached, but two-thirds of the Senate must concur before the officer is removed from office.