The 87th Legislative Session is underway in Austin, and due to COVID-19, things are a lot different. One of the things I will miss is the trip up to Austin for Aransas County Day at the Capitol. It may still happen in some form (maybe through a computer screen?), but it won’t be like past sessions, when the Aransas County delegation heard the most up-to-date news about what was happening, and student pages were recognized, etc.
I received an email from our former State Representative Todd Hunter outlining the Legislative Process. I think it’s interesting, and wanted to share Hunter’s weekly column with you this week in my space. Now, you can tell people you know how the sausage is made in Austin!
A few weeks ago, I used my weekly article to announce the start of the 87th Legislative Session. In this week’s article I would like to take the opportunity to describe to you the legislative process in which bills must go through to become a state law. It is important to recognize that numerous bills are filed during a legislative session but only a small portion of those bills will manage to get all the way through the entire legislative process.
A bill may start out as an idea of an individual legislator or from the suggestions of their constituents; or it may even grow out of the recommendations of a committee of the legislature that has conducted interim studies on specific issues of legislative interest. Once a legislator decides that they would like to try and turn their concept in to a law, they can either draft the legislation on their own or send it to the Texas Legislative Council (TLC). The TLC provides the Texas Legislature with professional nonpartisan drafting services.
After the bill is drafted, it may then be filed with the Chief Clerk of the House or the Secretary of the Senate’s office depending on the legislator’s respective chamber. Once the bill has been filed with the appropriate House and Senate offices it is then assigned a number based on the order in which it was received. This number will allow the bill to be tracked through the rest of the lawmaking process. At this point, the bill is introduced and read aloud in each respective chamber before being assigned to a committee by either the Speaker in the House or the Lieutenant Governor in the Senate.
The Texas House, based on rules it adopts at the beginning of every session, gives each standing committee an assigned jurisdiction over a specific subject matter. The Speaker uses these specific subject matters to refer the bills to the appropriate committee. The Senate however does not specify subject matter jurisdiction for senate committees. Instead, the Lieutenant Governor may refer legislation in the Senate to any standing committee or subcommittee even though unofficial subject matter jurisdictions are usually followed.
Once a bill has been assigned to the appropriate committee, it then falls to the chairman of the committee to hold a public hearing. It is in these public hearings in which the public has their first opportunity to comment on the proposed legislation. To bring attention to the legislation being heard before a committee, public notice must be provided in advance of a public hearing being held by a House committee and for public hearings being held by a Senate committee. Due to the number of bills filed as well as to the shortness of the legislative session, many bills will be unable to make their way out of committee. However, if a bill can make its way out of committee by receiving a favorable vote, it then becomes eligible to be placed on the calendar to go before the House or Senate as a whole.
If you would like to learn more information about the legislative process, please visit the Texas Legislative Council at https://tlc.texas.gov.
If you would like to start following any of the bills that have already been filed, these websites serve as a great resource:
• The Texas Legislature Online at https://capitol.texas.gov.
• The Texas House of Representatives. at https://house.texas.gov.
• The Texas Senate at https://senate.texas.gov.
-Rep. Todd Hunter
Hope you enjoyed!
Until next week, have a good week.
Mike Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.