The elections have passed, decisions are made, and the last-minute fundraising is well underway. Texas law prohibits state officeholders (House, Senate, and Statewide) from raising political funds within 30 days of the beginning of the legislative session. The 88th regular legislative session begins at noon, Tuesday, January 10. Right now, there is a mad dash to raise whatever money that can be raised before the upcoming deadline on December 10.
This fundraising period, between the election and the deadline, is somewhat unique. Success in raising funds during this period is spotty at best. Contributors who guessed incorrectly on the election have a chance to make amends and meet some of the new members, and new members can be overrun with “new” friends. Whether the new official actually remembers any of these “late train” supporters is debatable. The line to meet some of these new elected officials will be out the door, so wear your comfortable shoes.
Early bill filling began 60 days before the legislative session begins. As of today, there are 960 House bills and 277 Senate bills filed. If this session follows the past several sessions’ trend, when it is all said and done there will have been approximately 7,000 bills and resolutions filed. A bill can be as short as one word or as long as 900 pages or more.
Most will never see the light of day, luckily.
Low bill numbers are often reserved for leadership bills, issues of importance to the Governor, Lt. Governor, or Speaker. Otherwise, its first come, first served. Only a legislator (representative or senator) may introduce a bill. A bill can be drafted by the member, an interested outside party, or as in most cases, the Texas Legislative Council. Once the drafting is completed, the bill is filed and a bill number is assigned. In the House the bill is filed with the Chief Clerk, and in the Senate the bill is filed with the Secretary of the Senate. A bill is first introduced by a legislator in the legislator’s own chamber, which is considered the bill’s originating chamber. Both the House and Senate rules allow for unrestricted introduction of bills during the first 60 calendar days of a regular session. After the 60-day deadline, the introduction of any bill, other than a local bill, an emergency appropriations bill, or a bill to address emergency matters submitted by the Governor requires the consent of at least four-fifths of those Representatives present and voting if the bill is to be introduced in the House, or the consent of at least four-fifths of the members of the Senate if the bill is to be introduced in that chamber.
The size of the legislature and the volume of proposed legislation each session makes lengthy deliberation on each bill by the entire membership difficult, if not impossible. For this reason, the basic business of the legislature is conducted according to the committee system. The committees are formed according to the rules of each chamber and are created at the beginning of each session. Almost all bills will end up being referred to committee, but most will never be heard and will die in the committee to which they were referred. For House committees, membership is determined in part by member seniority and in part by appointments by the Speaker. House members usually sit on two to three committees. In the Senate, the committee membership is determined entirely by the Lt. Governor. Senators usually sit on four to five committees.
The Chair of each committee decides when the committee will meet and which bills will be considered. Meetings of House committee are general required to be open to the public. The Senate rules do not explicitly provide for different types of meetings but do require that a public hearing allowing public testimony be held on a bill before it can be reported out of committee.
Our next legislative update will review what exactly happens next in the process and follow a bill through the entire process up to the Governor’s consideration.
—Kyle Frazier, TWGGA Legislative Advocate