The Texas State Legislature, which began its 85th session Jan. 10, faces the deliberation of more than 1,700 bills throughout the next five months.
Every other year, Texas legislators in both the House of Representatives and the Senate convene at the Capitol for a 140-day legislative session in which they review bills and convert a small fraction of those bills into laws.
Sherri Greenberg, clinical professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, said the majority of bills fail to become laws because of a myriad of factors including expenses and lack of support from legislators.
“The whole system is set up to kill bills,” Greenberg said. “It’s much easier to kill a bill than to pass a bill.”
Bills can be drafted by anyone, but a legislator in either chamber of government must sponsor and introduce a bill for consideration. During this session, bill filing began Nov. 14 and will end March 10.
A bill is first introduced in the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Joe Straus, or the Senate, led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. After a bill is introduced, it is usually assigned to a committee that represents the subject matter of each specific bill.
While the majority of bills do not move past committee action, the ones that do are typically amended by committee members before proceeding to the full House or Senate. In this stage, a final passage vote is taken, and if the bill receives a simple majority vote, it is sent to the opposite chamber to undergo the process again.
At this point, only bills that receive a majority of votes from both the full House and full Senate are still eligible to become laws. Following the passage through the opposite chamber, bills with majority votes are moved back to where they originated. If no amendments were added by the other chamber, the bill is typically enrolled and sent to the governor, who has 10 days to either veto the bill or allow it to become a law through signature or no action.
According to the Legislative Reference Library of Texas, the 84th session consisted of 6,276 House and Senate bills filed, out of which 1,323 were sent to the governor, 355 signed by the governor, 4 vetoed by the governor and 20 filed without the governor’s signature.
According to the Texas Constitution, laws passed by the Legislature typically go into effect at least 90 days after the session concludes, which is scheduled for May 29 this year.
Senate Bill 1, or the state budget, is the only bill required to pass. According to The Texas Tribune, the budget is limited this session because of a decrease in oil and gas tax income.
Saul Cornejo Bravo, an economics junior and a Capitol intern, said he believes the legislative process works well but would change the frequency of sessions in the state to once a year instead of every other year in order to make a yearly budget.
“It’s so hard for them to predict what the revenues [will] be two years out and [a session every other year] makes it harder for them to make these predictions and to stay on budget,” Cornejo Bravo said.
Bills can be tracked throughout the session on Texas Legislature Online.