Texas Legislation

13436179_sHere is a summary of the process by which laws are made, from the Texas House of Representatives website. Remember: an informed community is an empowered community!

The Legislative Branch of Government

The legislature meets every odd-numbered year to write new laws and to find solutions to the problems facing the state. This meeting time, which begins on the second Tuesday in January and lasts 140 days, is called the regular session. The governor can direct the legislature to meet at other times also. These meetings, called special sessions, can last no more than 30 days and deal only with issues chosen by the governor.

Introducing a Bill

A representative or senator gets an idea for a bill by listening to the people he or she represents and then working to solve their problem. A bill may also grow out of the recommendations of an interim committee study conducted when the legislature is not in session. The idea is researched to determine what state law needs to be changed or created to best solve that problem. A bill is then written by the legislator, often with legal assistance from the Texas Legislative Council, a legislative agency which provides bill drafting services, research assistance, computer support, and other services for legislators.

The Committee Process

The chair of each committee decides when the committee will meet and which bills will be considered. 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. In the senate, testimony may be heard and official action may be taken at any meeting of a senate committee or subcommittee. Public testimony is almost always solicited on bills, allowing citizens the opportunity to present arguments on different sides of an issue.

Floor Action

When a bill comes up for consideration by the full house or senate, it receives its second reading. The bill is read, again by caption only, and then debated by the full membership of the chamber. Any member may offer an amendment, but it must be approved by a majority of the members present and voting to be adopted. The members then vote on whether to pass the bill. The bill is then considered by the full body again on 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. The senate routinely suspends this constitutional provision in order to give a bill an immediate third reading after its second reading consideration. The house, however, rarely suspends this provision, and third reading of a bill in the house normally occurs on the day following its second reading consideration.

If a bill is returned to the originating chamber without amendments, it is put in final form, signed by the speaker and lieutenant governor, and sent to the governor.

If a bill is returned to the originating chamber with amendments, the originating chamber can either agree to the amendments or request a conference committee to work out differences between the house version and the senate version.

If the amendments are agreed to, the bill is put in final form, signed by the presiding officers, and sent to the governor.

For more information, please contact CAIR-Houston at 713-838-2247 or at our email at info@houston.cair.com.