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Chapter 3. The Texas Legislature. Texas Legislature in Context. Bicameral (two chambers): House and Senate Population size of legislative districts must be roughly the same [ Reynolds v. Sims (1964) ] Biennial regular session (140 days every other year)

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Chapter 3

Chapter 3

The Texas Legislature

Texas legislature in context
Texas Legislature in Context

  • Bicameral (two chambers): House and Senate

  • Population size of legislative districts must be roughly the same [Reynolds v. Sims (1964)]

  • Biennial regular session (140 days every other year)

    • Governor may call thirty-day special session(s) and set session agenda/topic

    • Currently, 83rd TX Leg in session (Jan. 8, 2013)

Typologies of state legislatures
Typologies of State Legislatures

  • Citizen legislature—Part-time salary and job requirements; desire is to prevent professionalization of politics

  • Professional legislatures—Full-time salary and requirements

  • Texas considered a hybrid:

    • Only 140 days of every 730 (two years) are in session

    • Low annual salary: just $7,200 + per diem of $139 each day attended; total $33,680 for 2 yrs, avg 16,930

    • Generous retirement benefits


  • Elections held every 2 yrs

  • Senate staggered ½ each election, except after redistricting which requires whole Senate re-elected. Lottery determines who goes on 2 yr vs 4 term

  • No term limits in either chamber

  • Incumbency rate: 80% +

  • Need sufficient monies to win

  • Primary election often more important than general election in Nov.

  • incumbency graph

Theories of representation
Theories of Representation

  • Delegate Theory – follow constituents' instructions over personal beliefs

  • Trustee Theory – faith that rep do the right thing as has more info than voter

  • The Politico Approach – get me reelected

  • Microcosm Theory – legis mirrors demographics of whole population

Electing the state legislature
Electing the State Legislature

  • Single-member district - only one person per office elected

    • Adv: minorities impact elec outcome more

  • Plurality = the most

  • Majority = 50%+1

  • SMDP versus SMDM:

    • SMDP used for General Election

    • SMDM used for primaries (TX legis, US HR & US Sen, local officials)

New numbers new maps
New Numbers = New Maps

  • Redistricting: state redraws district based on new US census data

    • One person, one vote [necessary numerical equality, contingency, and compactness]

    • Gerrymandering = drawing district lines to favor one party/group over another

    • DOJ approves new maps to ensure no racial discrimination



Legislative organization
Legislative Organization

  • Chamber Leadership:

    • Lieutenant Governor (Senate; elected by voters) and Speaker of the House (House; selected by members)

      • Powers include assigning members to standing committees, appointing committee chairs, and serving on the Legislative Budget Board (LBB)

  • Party Organization:

    • Party caucuses versus Special caucuses

Legislative organization con t committees
Legislative Organization (con’t):Committees

  • Standing committees —permanent, House and Senate exclusive formal work groups that typically exist across sessions and across elections; specific topics

  • Select committees—temporary work groups created by the presiding officers of each chamber for a special purpose; also called “joint committees”

  • Interim committees—legislative work groups created in between sessions to address specific problems and to research specific issues

  • Conference committees—as part of the legislative process, empanelled to reconcile House and Senate versions of a bill

  • Calendars committee – all members selected by the Speaker ; controls scheduling of bills in House

Legislative process
Legislative Process

  • Bills versus resolutions.

  • Public hearings, committee debates, mark-up sessions, and amendment opportunities precede the standing committee’s final vote on the bill.

  • Each chamber is able to conduct floor debate.

  • Senate filibuster limited to one senator only – no teams or yielding and no cloture to stop

  • A bill passed by each chamber (an “enrolled bill”) is considered by the governor.

    • In Texas, the governor has a variety of choices when responding to a bill


  • Bill must be approved after 3 readings in the house and senate

    • 1st reading – referral to committee

    • 2nd reading – prior to floor debate & vote

    • 3rd reading –prior to going to other house, read and vote again


  • Exactly verbatim in both versions of bill, House and Senate

  • If not exact, then goes to conference committee

    • Members selected by House (5 members) and Senate (5 members)

    • To pass, must receive 3/5 of House members and 3/5 of Senate members

    • Not 6/10 as doesn’t equally represent each house.

Governor s action
Governor’s Action

  • Sign bill into law; effective in 90 days

    • Sooner if appropriations or emergency legislation

  • Nothing, and it becomes law after

    • 10 days if legis in session or 20 days if not in session

  • Veto whole bill

    • Override by 2/3 legis if in session

  • Line-item veto for money items

  • Role of Comptroller – must certify that adequate revenues available for any expenditure of funds

Weird texas words
Weird Texas words

  • Tagging – way for 1 senator to kill a bill by delaying hearing on bill for 48 hours

  • Bracketing – wording bill so that only one specific locale is effected

    • Ex. “any city with over 3 mil.”  Houston

  • Pre-filing – allowing bills to be filed after Nov. election and prior to start of session

  • Sunset Advisory commission – state agency that evaluates and recommends whether a state agency should be continued or abolished.

  • Sunshine laws = Open public meetings laws; applies to all govt’l entities including HOAs