Texas Legislature 101
The Texas Legislature meets in odd-numbered years for 140 days at the State Capitol in Austin, with the first day of the regular Legislative session beginning in January and ending in May.
Just like the Federal Government, the Texas Legislature is made up of two chambers, the Texas House and the Texas Senate.
The Texas House is composed of 150 members, each elected to a two year term. Every two years, these members elect one of their peers to serve as the Speaker of the Texas House, who serves as the leader of the Texas House and decides who will serve on, and chair, various committees, as well as which bills get voted on.
The Texas Senate is composed of 31 members, led by the Lieutenant Governor, who is elected by voters statewide. The Lieutenant Governor has many of the same powers as the Speaker: he appoints members to committees and decides which bills make it to the floor.
Unlike most states, the Governor of Texas is a relatively powerless position, mainly relying on his or her symbolic power as head of the state government, rather than any real legislative ability. The Governor often lays out their legislative priorities at the start of the legislative session, with the first few bills on the floor being reserved for their priorities. The only real power that the Texas Constitution affords the Governor is the ability to veto legislation, and the legislature often has little ability to overturn this veto.
- There are several steps involved for a bill to become law. First, a bill is drafted by one or several members of the House or Senate.
After drafting a bill, a Legislator files a bill and it is assigned a number. House Bills are noted as HB # and Senate Bills are noted as SB #
- The Speaker (for House Bills) or the Lt Governor (for Senate Bills) assigns the bill to a committee, which is led by a Chairman/Chairwoman.
- The assigned committee schedules a hearing for the bill, where all Texans can come and voice their support or concerns for a bill, and then votes on the bill. If the committee fails to pass the bill, the bill dies.
- The bill is assigned to the Calendars Committee, which decides if the bill will be on the agenda for the entire House to debate. If the committee votes to not put the bill on the agenda, the bill dies.
- The bill is debated by the whole house and then voted on. If it passes, it will be voted on again for a final vote the following day. If it passes again, it is referred to the other Chamber.
- The entire process repeats in the other Chamber, and if the bill passes without any changes, it goes to the Governor’s desk. If the bill is changed, the two Chambers meet together to work out a compromise. If the bill does not pass in the other Chamber, the bill dies.
- If a bill passes both Chambers, then the Governor either signs it into law or vetoes it. The Legislature has almost no ability to override a veto, meaning that a veto almost always renders the bill dead.