83rd Legislative Report: Time Ticking on Legislature by JM Lozano
The end of April marks the beginning of the end for the Texas Legislature. The Texas Constitution requires us to adjourn 140 days after we start. This year, that means May 27th is our last day to conduct business.
By this point in the session, no new bills are offered and we are working on the ones left in committee or those that are on the House floor for debate. These are often our longest days -‐debating bills, working on amendments, and working in conference committee, which is what happens when the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill. Since this is “crunch time”, it is worth looking back on what we have done so far:
- The House of Representatives has filed 4,000 bills. Of those, only 1,210 have passed out of House committees. That means about 30% of the bills filed even get past the first step.
- Of those bills, 237 have been passed by the House. That’s a success rate of just 6%!
- The Texas Senate filed 1,967 bills. Of those, 910 have passed out of Senate committees. So, less than 50% of the Senate’s bills make it out of committee.
- 648 Senate bills have been passed out of the Senate. That’s a success rate of over 30%.
As you can see, any bill that is filed faces long odds to be passed. Not only do bill have to pass both the House and Senate, but they also have to be signed by the Governor. Many times, the Governor will choose to veto bills. In 2011, the Governor vetoed 24 bills. Some argue that this system is a good thing since it keeps legislators from imposing on the public. There is a well-‐known joke that says nobody is safe while the Texas Legislature is in Session!
Even though we have a whole month left, there are deadlines that even further restrict the bills we consider. All House bills that are going to be passed must be voted on by May 9th. After that date, the House may not vote on any more House bills. Then, by May 22nd, the House must vote on all Senate bills that are going to be passed. The remaining days of session are used to work out agreements between the House and the Senate.
The rules governing the Texas Legislature are highly complex and not often understood. However, they are in place to make sure that our work happens in an open and transparent environment, and the public is kept aware of which laws are being considered and voted on. During this last month of Session, I ask you to keep me aware of your priorities and stay in touch with my office.