THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE

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Introduction. Texas has the highest homeowner insurance rates in the country.In 2001, the average Texas homeowner paid $937 for insurance, compared to the national average of $530.In 2002, the average premiums rose by 38 percent between early 2001 and early 2002.Almost every insurance company doi

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THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE

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1. THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE

2. Introduction Texas has the highest homeowner insurance rates in the country. In 2001, the average Texas homeowner paid $937 for insurance, compared to the national average of $530. In 2002, the average premiums rose by 38 percent between early 2001 and early 2002. Almost every insurance company doing business in Texas increased its premiums well above the benchmark rate set by the Texas Department of Insurance. Two insurance companies announced that they would reduce their exposure in the state, creating an insurance crisis in Texas. The controversy over insurance regulation illustrates the role of the Texas legislature in the policymaking process.

3. Structure Bicameralism Texas has a bicameral legislature composed of two chambers consisting of a House of Representatives and Senate. The Texas constitution assigns each legislative chamber certain powers and responsibilities. The Senate has the authority to confirm or reject the governorís appointments by a two-thirds majority. The House alone, by majority vote, has the power of impeachment, which is a formal accusation against an executive or judicial officeholder.

4. Structure Bicameralism (cont.) Each House member represents approximately 139,000 individuals; whereas, each Senate member 673,000 constituents. Representatives serve for a term of two years; senators serve for a term of four years. Bicameralism has supporters and critics; however, the conventional wisdom is that bicameralism has a conservative effect on the policymaking process because two chambers must approve a measure before it can clear the legislature.

5. Structure Session Frequency The legislature meets in a regular session every other year (biennial), in odd-calendar years. The Texas Constitution empowers the governor to call special sessions of the legislature, which may last for a maximum of 30 calendar days. Annual legislative sessions are near the top of the list of constitutional reforms because reformers believe that the affairs of state government are too complex to handle in biennial sessions.

6. Structure Session Length The biennial sessions of the legislature are limited to a maximum of 140 calendar days. Legislative activity in Texas thus tends to concentrate at certain times, i.e., the deadline for submitting bills and the end of the session.

7. Membership The 79th Legislature (2005-2006) included 36 women 37 Latinos 16 African Americans 1 Asian American Although the Texas legislature is an ethnically diverse body, it is not a cross-section of the stateís population. The next slide indicates that Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and women were all underrepresented in the 79th Legislature, whereas whites were overrepresented.

8. Representation in the 79th Legislature

9. Membership Compensation The official salary for members of the legislature, both House and Senate is set by the Texas Constitution at $600 a month or $7,200 a year. Compared with other states, this compensation figure is low. Nonsalary compensation provided for Texas legislators when the legislature is in session equals to a daily expense allowance of $128. However, Texas legislators have provided themselves with one of the most generous pension plans in the nation. Furthermore, state law also allows legislators to deposit leftover or excess campaign funds into officeholder accounts that can be used to pay for whatever expenses the lawmaker wants to cover.

10. Membership Legislative turnover Legislative turnover refers to the replacement of individual members of a legislature from one session to the next. It peaks in the first election after redistricting. It is more often the result of voluntary retirement, rather than election defeat. Some members leave because they cannot win reelection; others quit out of frustration. The 78th Legislature, which was the first legislature elected from the 2000 census redistricting, included 43 new members - 5 senators and 38 members of the House. The 79th Legislature included only 19 new faces out of 181 members.

11. Membership Term Limits Term limitation is the movement to restrict the number of terms public officials may serve. Although fifteen states have enacted term limit laws, Texas has not adopted term limits for its legislators. Advocates of term limits believe that they will improve the capacity of the legislature to do its work; opponents are convinced that term limits make legislatures less effective.

12. Organization Leadership The Speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor are the presiding officers of the legislature. Speaker of the House is the presiding officer of the House and is elected by the members of the House. Lieutenant governor is the presiding officer of the Senate. The Speaker and the lieutenant governor control many of the legislative procedures of the House and Senate, respectively. They assign bills to committees and, once committees have done their work, they have considerable influence over which bills are scheduled for debate.

13. Organization Leadership (cont.) As presiding officers in their respective chambers, they recognize members for debate, rule on points of order, and interpret rules. They serve on and make appointments to some of the stateís most important policymaking bodies, including the Legislative Budget Board and the Legislative Redistricting Board. The Speaker and lieutenant governor exercise considerable control over committee membership. The leadership of the Speaker and lieutenant governor is a collective rather than individual; each official heads a leadership team made up of supporters in the chamber.

14. Organization Committees A standing committee is a permanent committee established to handle legislation in a certain field The Texas House had 40 standing committees in 2005, and the Texas Senate had 15 standing committees. House and Senate rules limit the number of standing committees on which legislators may serve to three. The lieutenant governor and Speaker make most committee assignments.

15. Organization Committees (cont.) An interim committee is a committee established to study a particular policy issue between legislative sessions, such as higher education or public school finance. A select committee is a committee established for a limited period of time to address a specific problem. A conference committee is a committee created to negotiate differences on similar pieces of legislation passed by the House and Senate.

16. Organization Legislative Assistance Staff assistance is important to members of the Texas legislature because they are essentially part-time employees asked to perform a monumental task in a limited period of time. The legislature provides members with sufficient funds to employ staff assistance, who perform a wide array of legislative services. The legislature also provides members with institutional assistance, for example, the Legislative Council and the Legislative Reference Library.

17. The Legislative Process Introduction In each legislative session, members introduce thousands of bills and hundreds of resolutions. A bill is a proposed law. A resolution is a legislative statement of opinion on a certain matter, i.e., congratulating a Texas sportís team for winning a championship. Joint resolution is a resolution that must be passed by a two-thirds vote of each chamber.

18. The Legislative Process Committee Action After a bill or resolution has been introduced, the measure is assigned a number and referred to a committee by the lieutenant governor and the Speaker, respectively, in each chamber. Committees begin consideration of proposed legislation by holding public hearings. After the hearings are complete, the committee meets for mark up, which is the process of revising, amending, or rewriting of the proposed legislative measure. The committee members vote whether to recommend the revised measure to their respective chamber for passage. If the proposed measure receives a majority of affirmative votes, it is reported out of committee to the respective floor.

19. The Legislative Process Floor Action The process by which legislation moves from committee to the floor differs in the two chambers of the Texas legislature. In the House, measures recommended favorably by a standing committee go to the Calendars Committee for assignment to one of the House calendars, which sets the order of priority for consideration of the legislative proposal. In the Senate, measures recommended favorably go to the Senate calendar of bills, which sets the order of priority for consideration of the legislative measure on the Senate floor.

20. The Legislative Process Floor Action (cont.) House rules provide for consideration of measures in order of priority set by the calendar system, but the House may vote by a two-thirds margin to consider a measure out of order. Senate rules require that bills emerging from committee be placed on a single calendar for consideration in order; however, it is a standard practice to consider legislation out of order by suspending the rules of priority with a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

21. The Legislative Process Floor Action (cont.) Floor action on bills consists of members of either chamber debating the bill on its merit and perhaps offering amendments. In the House, debate is limited due to House rules limiting debate. In the Senate, debate can vary due to the practice of a filibuster; however, a majority vote can end debate. Following debate, voting occurs Members of the House vote electronically and a scoreboard displays each vote. Members of the Senate vote by roll call.

22. The Legislative Process Conference Committee Action A proposed measure has not cleared the legislature until it has passed both chambers in identical form. Conference committees negotiate differences between pieces of legislation passed by the House and Senate. Conference committee is a special committee created to negotiate differences on similar pieces of legislation passed by both chambers.

23. The Legislative Process Action by the Governor Take no action on the bill; however, the bill becomes law after ten days if the legislature is in session Sign the bill passed by the legislature into law Exercise line-item veto Power to strike out sections or items of an appropriations bill while signing the remainder of the bill into law Only applicable in an appropriations bill Issue a veto on the entire bill Governorís veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of each chamber if the legislature is still in session.

24. Legislative Policymaking A number of factors affect the legislative process in Texas. Legislative leadership Interest groups Constituency Political parties Political ideology

25. Legislative Policymaking Legislative leadership The centralizing of power for the Speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor becomes an important factor in the legislative process. The support or opposition of the leadership strongly determines the success or failure of a legislative measure. Interest groups Interest groups influence the legislative process by contributing money to candidates which provides legislative access. Interest groups also affect the legislative process through lobbying.

26. Legislative Policymaking Constituency Several models are linked to constituency service. The traditional model of representation is that candidates make promises during the election campaign and then keep (or fail to keep) those promises once in office. In this approach, citizens hold legislators accountable for keeping their promises. A second model of representation holds that lawmakers do what they think their constituents will approve at the next election. This approach recognizes that legislators may sometimes address issues that were not discussed during the last election.

27. Legislative Policymaking Constituency (cont.) A third model of representation holds that legislators use their own common sense and good judgment to do what is best for their constituents and the state as a whole. Another model of representation suggests that legislators sometimes represent constituents outside their districts, such as campaign contributors. From this perspective, big money contributors may have as much or more influence over legislative decision-making as the voters.

28. Legislative Policymaking Political Parties For most of the stateís history, political parties played a relatively small role in legislative policymaking, because nearly every legislator was a Democrat. The development of a two-party system in Texas has changed the legislative process. The 78th Legislature marks the beginning of a more partisan legislature. In general, Democratic and Republican members of the legislature have different policy preferences, especially on issues involving taxes and spending. Democratic and Republican legislators disagree on policy issues because they represent different constituencies with different interests.

29. Legislative Policymaking Political Ideology Political ideology influences the legislative process. Liberalism is the political view that seeks to change the political, economic, or social institutions of society to foster the development and well-being of the individual. Conservatism is the political view that seeks to preserve the political, economic, and social institutions of society against abrupt change. Liberals usually favor government regulation and high levels of spending for social programs; Conservatives favor the reverse. Historically, conservatives have dominated the Texas legislature and legislative policies have reflected their political values.

30. Conclusion The legislature is the central policymaking institution of state government. It formulates policy in response to external forces that set the political agenda. The stages of policymaking process are: Agenda building Policy formulation and adoption Policy implementation and evaluation

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