Legislative Process in Texas

How a Bill Originates

A legislator may draft legislation personally or obtain the services of professional staff of the Texas Legislative Council or the engrossing and enrolling department of the senate. The Legislative Budget Board drafts the general appropriations bill. Legislation may also be prepared by organizations or individuals with a particular interest in certain matters. The bill, the most common type of legislative document, is the only means by which laws may be enacted, amended or repealed. All bills, except for general appropriations bills, are limited to a single subject.

A bill may originate as the idea of a single member of the legislature or may grow out of the recommendations of a standing or special committee of the legislature that has conducted interim studies on specific issues of legislative interest.

Introducing a Bill

A bill may be introduced by any member of the legislature in the member’s own chamber, and the steps in a bill’s progress in each house are basically the same. A bill passed by one house must proceed to the other for final passage before going to the governor for approval or veto.

To introduce a bill in the House of Representatives, a state representative must first submit the required number of copies of the bill for filing to the chief clerk of the House, who sequentially numbers each document according to the order in which it is received. The House Rules of Procedure permit unrestricted introduction of bills during the first 60 calendar days of each regular session. After the 60-day deadline, the introduction of any bill other than a local bill or a bill relating to a matter declared by the governor to be an emergency requires the consent of at least four-fifths of those members present and voting.

To introduce a bill in the Senate, a senator must first submit the required number of copies of the bill to the secretary of the senate, who sequentially numbers each document according to the order in which it is received. The Senate Rules of Procedure also permit unrestricted introduction of bills during the first 60 calendar days of each regular session. After the 60-day deadline in the Senate, the introduction of any bill other than a local bill or a bill relating to a matter declared by the governor to be an emergency requires the consent of at least four-fifths of the membership of the Senate.

The Role of Committees

The size of the legislature and the volume of work confronting it each session make thoughtful deliberation on the many proposed measures by the entire membership impossible. The committee stage in the deliberative process is at the core of legislative politics since the fate of bills under consideration hinges on committee action. A large percentage of all legislation is never reported out of committee. Thus, committee action is the first crucial step in the process by which a bill becomes law.

Referral to a Standing Committee

When a bill is introduced or is received from the opposite chamber for consideration, it is read for the first time by its caption only and is referred by the speaker or lieutenant governor to an appropriate committee.

In the House Rules, each committee is assigned jurisdiction over a specific subject matter, and the speaker refers legislation to House committees based on those subject matter jurisdictions. The Senate Rules do not specify subject matter jurisdictions for Senate committees. The lieutenant governor may refer legislation in the Senate to any standing committee or subcommittee, although unofficial subject matter jurisdictions are usually followed.

Committees are formed at the beginning of the regular session and generally consist of five to 29 members. For committees of the House of Representatives, membership of most committees is determined in part by seniority and in part by appointments by the speaker. Each representative sits on at least one committee, and most representatives sit on two or three committees.

For committees of the Senate, membership is determined entirely by appointments by the lieutenant governor. Senators generally sit on three or four committees each.

A bill requiring extensive analysis may be assigned to a subcommittee of the standing committee to which the bill has been referred. Subcommittees are appointed by the committee chair from the standing committee’s membership. After concluding its deliberation on a bill, the subcommittee may submit a written report to the full committee.

Immediately after a bill has been referred to committee, a determination must be made as to whether a fiscal note or other impact statement is required, and if so, the Legislative Budget Board prepares the note or statement. In preparing the note or statement, the Legislative Budget Board may consult the state agencies affected by the legislation. In the House, the fiscal note must be attached to the affected bill before a public hearing on the bill may be held, and if the bill is reported from committee, the fiscal note must be attached to the bill as part of the committee report when it is printed and distributed to the members of the House. A bill may proceed through the legislative process before an impact statement is completed, but a copy of the impact statement must be distributed to the members as soon as it has been completed. Senate practice is for a copy of the fiscal note to be provided to the committee members before a final vote on a bill in committee is taken. The fiscal note is included as part of the Senate committee report.

The Committee Process

All committee business is required to be conducted in open meetings. No official action or vote may be taken except in a meeting that is open to the public. The House Rules permit a House committee or subcommittee to meet: (1) in a public hearing where testimony is heard and where official action may be taken on bills, resolutions or other matters; (2) in a formal meeting where the members may discuss and take official action without hearing public testimony; or (3) in a work session for discussion of matters before the committee without taking formal action. The Senate Rules do not provide for different types of meetings. Therefore, testimony may be heard and official action may be taken at any meeting of a Senate committee or subcommittee. Although a committee is not required to solicit public testimony on any bill referred to it, public testimony is almost always solicited on bills of outstanding importance, allowing citizens the opportunity to present arguments on different sides of an issue. In the Senate, a public hearing must be held on a bill before it can be reported from committee.

A House committee or subcommittee holding a public hearing during a legislative session must post notice of the hearing at least five calendar days before the hearing during a regular session and at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing during a special session. If a House committee or subcommittee is convening for a formal meeting or a work session, written notice must be posted and transmitted to each member of the committee two hours in advance of the meeting or an announcement must be filed with the journal clerk and read in the House while the House is in session. A Senate committee or subcommittee must post notice of a meeting at least 24 hours before the meeting.

Committee Reports

After considering a bill, a committee may choose to take no action or may issue a report on the bill to the House or Senate. The committee report, expressing the committee’s recommendations regarding House or Senate action on a bill, includes a record of the committee’s vote on the report, the text of the bill as reported by the committee, a detailed bill analysis, a fiscal note or other impact statement and other attachments as necessary.

The required parts of the committee report are assembled, printed, and distributed to the members as a single document. Committee reports are advisory only and may take several forms. The committee may recommend passage of the bill without amendments, or it may recommend amendments to the bill or even substitute a new bill for the original document.

In the House, all committee reports are referred to the chief clerk, who forwards them to the printer. After being printed, a copy of the House committee report printing (which includes bill text, the committee’s recommendation and vote on the bill, the bill analysis, the fiscal note, and other necessary impact statements and attachments) is placed in the post office box of each member of the House. The chief clerk then delivers a certified copy of the committee report to the appropriate calendars committee (the Committee on Calendars or the Committee on Local and Consent Calendars) for placement of the bill on a calendar for consideration by the full House. Calendars committees are given wide discretion in scheduling bills for floor action.

The Senate Rules also require committee reports to be printed. After being printed, a copy of the Senate committee report printing (which includes bill text, the committee’s recommendation and vote on the bill, the bill analysis, the fiscal note and other necessary impact statements and attachments) is placed in the bill book on each senator’s desk in the Senate chamber. Except for the role of the Committee on Administration in scheduling local and noncontroversial bills for consideration, there is no equivalent to a calendars committee in the Senate. The Senate’s regular order of business lists all bills and resolutions that have been reported favorably from committees in the order in which they were reported to the senate. For all practical purposes, the regular order of business is merely a listing of bills that are eligible for consideration. The Senate Rules provide that a bill on the regular order of business may not be brought up for floor consideration unless the Senate sponsor of the bill has filed with the secretary of the senate a written notice of intent to suspend the regular order of business for consideration of the bill.

House Calendars and List of Items Eligible for Consideration

The House Rules provide for four types of calendars:

1. The Daily House Calendar, which contains a list of new bills and resolutions scheduled by the Committee on Calendars for consideration by the House and which must be distributed to the members 36 hours before the House may consider those measures (24 hours during special sessions);

2. The Supplemental House Calendar (prepared by the Committee on Calendars), which must be distributed two hours before the House convenes and which may contain: (a) measures passed to third reading on the previous day; (b) measures on the Daily House Calendar for a previous day that were not reached for consideration; (c) measures on the Daily House Calendar for the current day; (d) postponed business from a previous day; and (e) notice to call from the table a measure laid on the table subject to call on a previous day;

3. The Local, Consent and Resolutions Calendar, which must be distributed to the members 48 hours before the listed measures may be considered and which contains a list of local or noncontroversial bills scheduled by the Committee on Local and Consent Calendars for consideration by the House; and

4. The Congratulatory and Memorial Calendar, which must be distributed 24 hours before those measures may be
considered and which contains a list of congratulatory and memorial resolutions scheduled by the Committee on Rules and Resolutions for consideration by the House.

5. The Supplemental House Calendar, because it includes the measures listed on the Daily House Calendar, is the
primary agenda followed by the House during its deliberations. The Local, Consent and Resolutions Calendar and the Congratulatory and Memorial Calendar are special calendars that are prepared approximately once a week during the last half of a regular session.

The House Rules provide for seven categories that may be used to group bills and resolutions on the calendars. Those categories, listed in order of priority, are: (1) emergency calendar; (2) major state calendar; (3) constitutional amendments calendar; (4) general state calendar; (5) local, consent, and resolutions calendar; (6) resolutions calendar; and (7) congratulatory and memorial resolutions calendar. Within each category, senate bills and resolutions are required to be listed on the calendars separately from House bills and resolutions, and consideration of senate bills and resolutions on senate bill days (Wednesdays and Thursdays) has priority in the order specified by house rule.

Except during the latter part of the regular session, when calendars become especially lengthy, the House normally considers all measures listed on its calendars before adjourning or recessing for the day.

List of Items Eligible for Consideration

This list is prepared by the chief clerk of the House, upon request of the speaker, when the volume of legislation warrants (normally during the last few weeks of a regular session). The list, which must be distributed six hours before it may be considered, contains: (1) House bills with senate amendments eligible to be considered; (2) Senate bills for which the Senate has requested the appointment of a conference committee; and (3) conference committee reports eligible to be considered.

Senate Agenda and Intent Calendar

The Senate agenda includes the following information:

1. Notice of intent, giving the number, author or sponsor, and short caption for each measure that may be considered
during the day’s session;

2. List of Senate bills returned from the House with amendments;

3. Status of bills in conference committees, giving a short caption and brief history of the action on the bills;

4. Local and uncontested bills calendar;

5. Gubernatorial appointments to boards and commissions that have been reported favorably from the Senate
Committee on Nominations and are awaiting confirmation by the Senate;

6. Committee hearings scheduled, including short captions for all measures scheduled to be considered by
the committees;

7. Regular order of business, listing all bills and resolutions that have been reported favorably from committees in the order in which they were reported to the Senate;

8. Miscellaneous announcements;

9. Senate floor action, giving the numbers and short captions for and action taken on all measures brought up for
consideration during the previous legislative day;

10. Senate committee action, giving the same information for all measures considered by committees on the previous day;
and,

11. Morning call, which includes Senate and House bills and resolutions on first reading and referral to committee, the introduction and consideration of memorial and congratulatory resolutions, messages and executive communications and other motions.

Copies of the senate agenda (usually referred to as “green books” because they are printed on green paper) are available the morning of each legislative day.

Intent Calendar

Senate Rules require that bills and resolutions be listed on the regular order of business and be considered on second reading in the order in which committee reports on the measures are submitted to the Senate. During a regular session, the Senate adopts a further rule specifying that before a bill or joint resolution may be brought up for floor debate out of its regular order, notice of intent must be filed with the secretary of the Senate by 3 p.m., on the last preceding calendar day the Senate was in session. A member may give notice on no more than three bills or resolutions before April 15 and on no more than five bills or resolutions on or after April 15. Senate Rules direct the secretary of the Senate to prepare a list of all legislation for which notice has been given. The list, called the Intent Calendar, must be made available to each member of the Senate and to the press not later than 6:30 p.m., on the day the notice is filed. No bill or resolution may be considered on its first day on the Intent Calendar, and a vote
of two-thirds of the members present is required before any of the measures listed on the Intent Calendar may be debated. The Senate Rules do not require measures to be brought up for consideration in the order listed on the Intent Calendar, and the Senate routinely considers only a portion of those measures listed on the Intent Calendar for a given day. A senator must give notice from day to day for a measure that was not brought up for consideration to remain on the Intent Calendar. Any provision of the Senate Rule governing the Intent Calendar may be suspended by a vote of four-fifths of the members present.

Floor Action

The first real floor consideration of a bill occurs on its second reading. After it is read the second time, again by caption only, the measure is subject to debate and amendment by the entire membership of the chamber. On second reading, a bill may be amended by a simple majority. If no amendment is made, or if those proposed are disposed of, the final action on second reading of a bill is a vote on its passage to engrossment, if the bill is being considered in the chamber in which it was introduced, or passage to third reading, if the bill is being considered in the opposite chamber. The bill is then laid before the body for a third reading and final passage. A bill may be amended again on third reading, but amendments at this stage require a two-thirds majority for adoption.

Although the Texas Constitution requires a bill to be read on three separate days in each house before it can have the force of law, this constitutional rule may be suspended by a four-fifths vote of the House in which the bill is pending. In such cases, the bill is given an immediate third reading following the vote to pass the bill to engrossment or third reading. The Senate routinely suspends this constitutional provision in order to give a bill an immediate third reading. The House, however, rarely suspends this provision, and third reading consideration of a bill in the House normally occurs on the day following second reading consideration.

After a bill has been read a third time, it is voted on for final passage. If the bill receives a simple majority vote, it is considered passed, and the chief clerk of the House or the secretary of the Senate, as appropriate, certifies the bill’s final passage, noting on it the date of its passage and the vote by which it passed. When the bill is passed in the originating chamber, the bill is engrossed, and an exact and accurate copy of the bill, with all corrections and amendments incorporated into it, is prepared and sent to the opposite chamber for consideration. When the bill is passed in the opposite chamber, a new copy of the bill is not prepared. Rather, the bill is immediately returned to the originating chamber with any amendments simply attached to the bill.

Conference Committee

If a conference committee is called for, the presiding officers each appoint five members from their respective chambers to serve on the committee. The Senate Rules require that at least two of the Senate conferees be members of the Senate committee from which the bill was reported. A conference committee’s charge is limited to reconciling differences between the two chambers, and the committee, unless so directed, may not alter, amend, or omit text that is not in disagreement. Nor may the committee add text on any matter that is not in disagreement or that is not included in either version of the bill in question. After the committee has met and reached an agreement, a report is submitted to both chambers for approval or disapproval. The report must be approved by at least three conferees from each chamber and must contain the text of the bill as approved by the conference committee, a side-by-side analysis comparing the text of the compromise bill to both the House and the Senate versions, and the signatures of those members of the conference committee who approved the report. A conference committee report is not subject to amendment but must be accepted or rejected in its entirety.

Should the proposed compromise remain unacceptable to either chamber, it may be returned to the same conference
committee for further deliberation, with or without specific instructions, or the appointment of a new conference committee may be requested. Failure of the conference committee to reach agreement kills the measure. If the conference committee report is acceptable to both chambers, the bill is enrolled, signed by both presiding officers in the presence of their respective chambers, and sent to the governor.

Governor’s Action

Upon receiving a bill, the governor has 10 days in which to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature. If the governor elects to veto the bill and the legislature is still in session, the bill is returned to the House in which it originated with an explanation of the governor’s objections. A two-thirds majority in each house is required to override the veto. If the governor neither vetoes nor signs the bill within the allotted time, the bill becomes law. If a bill is sent to the governor within 10 days of final adjournment, the governor has until 20 days after final adjournment to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature.

 

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