Chapter 7: The Legislature


With the exception of Nebraska, which has a unicameral legislature, the rest of American states have bicameral system.

A. Making public policy or laws (most important)

B. Executive functions

1. budgeting
2. confirmation of governor's appointment

C. Investigatory/oversight functions

1. auditing
2. hold hearings
3. oversee state agencies programs, and operations

D. Judicial functions

1. part of checks and balances
2. impeachment of officials

a. House of Representatives indicts by a simple majority vote
b. Senate conducts trial - conviction requires 2/3 vote

E. Redistricting/reapportionment

1. must be done every 10 years after the census is completed
2. legislature must reapportion itself and the Texas congressional districts because of population changes
3. gerrymandering - technique used to draw congressional district lines in favor of the party who is in control of the state legislature at the time (this is illegal)
4. Reynolds v. Sims - U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "the seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis" - senatorial districts must be equal in population
5. Kilgarlin v. Martin - "one-man, one-vote" principle was first applied in Texas by a federal district court

F. Constituent Function: Amend Texas Constitution

G. Representation/service to constituents

1. each legislative member is expected to act as a broker between private citizens and the state government

2. legislators and their staffs spend time on casework which deals with citizens' problems

3. "pork barrel" legislation - public money is appropriated for special projects to improve a member's political standing

H. Electoral Function

A. Senate - 31 members
B. House of Representatives - 150 members

A. Chosen in a general election on even-numbered years by qualified voters who live in single-member senatorial or representative districts

B. Senators

1. serve four-year terms
2. half of the Senate is elected every two years

C. Representatives

1. serve two-year terms
2. the whole House is elected at the same time

D. Qualifications

1. Senators

a. at least 26 years old
b. qualified voter
c. resident of senatorial district from which they are elected for at least one year before elected
d. legal resident of the state for 5 years

2. Representatives

a. at least 21 years old
b. qualified voter
c. legal resident of state for two years before elected
d. resident for at least one year of the district from which they are elected

E. Informal Qualifications

1. Democratic
2. white
3. male
4. Protestant
5. lawyer
6. 30-60 years old
7. married
8. college education
9. belong to several civic organizations
10. have personal money and access to campaign funds

F. Compensation

1. $7200 per year for both senators and representatives
2. why their salary is so low

a. it is a part-time job because they are only in session 140 days every two years

b. the majority of them are lawyers

3. It requires a constitutional amendment to raise the salary of the legislators;

4. miscellaneous compensation

a. $95 a day per diem allowance when the legislature is in a regular session ($4,200) and for every day of a special session

b. contingency expense allowances which are authorized by each house at the beginning of a session:$7,500 per month for the House members, and $20,000 per month for the senators.

1) used to cover the cost of postage
2) used to pay staff salaries
3) used to pay for general office operations

c. Texas legislators are also eligible for group health insurance, optional term life insurance and continued health insurance after retirement.

d. Each member of the House is entitled to one round trip per week between Austin and the member's home district while the legislature is in session.

5. retirement plan (the third highest among the states)

a. legislators contribute 8% of their salary to a retirement fund

b. this amounts to 2% of a district judge's salary for each year served (current benefits $18,314 per year)

G. Legislative immunities

1. legislators cannot be sued for slander or be held accountable for statements made in a speech or debate during the course of legislative proceedings

2. they cannot be arrested while attending a legislative session or while traveling to and from a legislative meeting place for the purpose of attending, unless charged with treason, a felony, or a breech of peace

A. Regular sessions

1. biennial - 140 days every two years

2. begins on the second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years

B. Special sessions

1. governor can call the legislature into special session for a maximum of 30 days
2. governor determines the agenda
3. the legislature cannot call itself into special session except to impeach the governor; in this case the Speaker of the House can call the House into an impeachment session upon the petition of 50 members; if the House votes on an impeachment bill, the Lt. Governor can call the Senate into a trial session

C. Legislative calendar

1. Senate - goes in the order that they receive any type of bill

2. House

a. Emergency - all revenue and appropriation bills
b. Major State - matters not involving money, but of major or statewide importance
c. General State - matters not involving money and not of major or statewide importance
d. Constitutional Amendments
e. Local - local bills, i.e. county, district
f. Consent - bills without opposition in the House
g. Resolution - measures that don't change or add to Texas laws

A. Presiding officers

1. Senate - Lt. Governor

a. elected in statewide election
b. four-year term
c. extensive powers over public policy

2. House - Speaker of the House

a. elected member of the House who is formally chosen by a majority vote of the House members

3. President Pro Tempore - elected by the Senate at the beginning of each session to preside when the Lt. Governor is absent

4. Speaker Pro Tempore - the speaker nominates someone to preside in his place when he is absent

B. Power of the presiding officers

1. procedural powers - deal with the organization of the legislature and legislative procedure

a. appoint committee members
b. appoint committee chairs
c. determine legislative jurisdiction of committee
d. schedule legislative floor action
e. recognize member on the floor for amendments and points of order
f. interpret procedural rules when conflict arises
g. appoint the chairs and members of conference committees

2. institutional powers - deal with the maintenance of the legislature as an organization of government

a. appoint members and serve as chair (Lt. Governor) and Vice-chair (Speaker) of the Legislative Budget Board which prepares the state budget and submits it to the House and Senate

b. appoint and serve as chair and vice-chair of the Texas Legislative Council which provides bill drafting service

c. appoint members and serve as chair and vice-chair of the Legislative Audit Board which audits state agencies' expenditures, programs and functions

d. appoint members and serve as chair and vice-chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission which studies state agencies and recommends whether or not to continue the agency's assistance and keep them functioning or to eliminate them

e. appoint members and serve as chair and vice-chair of the Legislative Education Board

A. Functions

1. specialization
2. division of labor

B. Types

1. standing

a. established by rules of the House and Senate as permanent committees
b. deal with special areas of public policy
c. each committee has a chair and vice-chair and the presiding officers determine the members and the chairs

2. subcommittees - subdivisions of standing committees; they consider specialized issues within their area of specialization

3. conference - formed for the purpose of arriving at acceptable compromises on bills that have passed both houses but have different forms

4. ad hoc or select - committees that are formed for a specific purpose

5. interim - continues the work of the legislature after the session ends to study the particular problems or to make recommendations to the next legislature

A. Bills - proposed legislation is known as a bill. For purpose of classification, bills are divided into three categories: special, general, and local. A special bill makes an exception to general laws for the benefit of a specific individual, class or corporation. General bills apply to all people or property in all parts of Texas. A local bill affects a single unit of local government. Constitutional limitations on subjects of local bills have led to enacting bracket bills, which are local bills disguised as general bills. (such as cities with population between 157,000 to 158,000).

B. Laws - bills that are passed and approved

Statutes - same as laws; they are passed by the legislature

Resolutions - they do not have the impact of laws; they express the thinking of the legislature

1. joint

a. concern matters of great importance to the state or legislature

b. primarily used for proposing amendments to the Texas Constitution

c. used to memorialize Congress - to remind Congress that certain actions are desirable or undesirable for the state legislature

d. used to ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution

e. used to authorize expenditures of legislative funds

f. used to form joint legislative committees must be adopted by both houses and be enrolled and signed by officers of each house and be filed with the secretary of state; it does not have to be submitted to the governor

2. concurrent

a. concern matters of interest to both houses
b. used to fix the time of final adjournment
c. used to request action by Congress
d. used to adopt or change joint rules
e. used to call a joint session of the legislature
f. must be adopted by both houses and be enrolled; subject to the governor's approval, except in matters of adjournment

3. simple

a. independent action of the house of origin and pertains to matters of that house only (called Senate Resolution in the Senate and House Resolution in the House)
b. used to adopt rules
c. used to appoint officers and employees
d. used to request opinions from the attorney general
e. used for house organization
f. they can be referred to committees, but this is not always necessary
g. adopted by a simple majority
h. numbered by the order they are filed and show which chamber they originated in

A. House bill

1. introduction of bill by a representative - any House member may introduce a bill by filing 13 copies with the chief clerk who is employed to supervise legislative administration in the House

2. first reading and referral to committee by speaker

a. after receiving a bill, the chief clerk assigns it a number in order of submission and turns it over to the reading clerk

b. the reading clerk reads the caption, which is a brief summary of the contents, and gives the bill to the speaker

c. the speaker assigns the bill to an appropriate standing committee

3. committee consideration and report

a. pigeonholing - a way that a bill is killed by being dropped to the bottom of the committee's agenda and being forgotten

b. discharge petition - a majority of House members vote for the discharge of a bill

c. if a majority of the committee members decide that a bill should be passed, a favorable report is filed with the committee coordinator

d. a bill cannot be brought to the floor for debate and vote unless it is reported out of committee at least three days before the end of a session

4. second reading, debate and vote

a. speakers are limited to ten minutes each unless extra time is granted by a simple majority vote
b. the author of a bill is given the privilege of beginning and ending floor debate with a speech of not over 20 minutes
c. after discussion ends and any amendments are added, a vote is taken on engrossment
d. if approved by a simple majority, the bill is passed to the engrossing and enrolling clerk who prepares the engrossed copy that has all amendments and corrections inserted
e. if a bill contains an emergency clause, a motion may be made to suspend the rules by a 4/5 majority vote and give the bill a third reading

5. third reading and final passage - a simple majority vote is required to pass the bill at this reading;

6. first reading in the Senate

a. the House bill's caption is read by the reading clerk

b. the lieutenant governor assigns the bill to committee

7. Senate committee consideration and report - if a majority of committee members want a bill to pass, it is given a favorable report

8. second reading in the Senate

a. debate on the Senate floor is unlimited

b. filibuster - parliamentary procedure by which Senators who do not have enough votes to defeat a bill will try to talk it to death by talking nonsense to discourage senators and make them want to leave, or to make them come around

c. closure - stopping a filibuster by a 2/3 vote

9. third reading in the Senate

10. return to the House - the bill is returned to the chief clerk and then sent to the engrossing and enrolling clerk who is responsible for supervising the preparation of a perfect copy of the bill and for delivering it to the speaker

11. conference committee

a. each presiding officer (of each chamber) appoints five members to serve on the conference committee; attempts will be made to adjust differences and produce a compromise version acceptable to both houses

12. conference committee report - the conference committee's recommended settlement of questions at issue must be fully accepted or rejected by each house

13. enrollment - the bill is sent to the engrossing and enrolling clerk of the House for preparation of a perfect copy

14. signatures of the chief clerk and speaker

15. signatures of the secretary of the Senate and the Lt. Governor

16. action by the governor

a. sign the bill
b. allow it to remain unsigned for 10 days, after which time it becomes law without his signature
c. veto the bill by returning it to the House unsigned with a message giving a reason for the veto

1) a vote of 2/3 of the membership present in the first house that considers a vetoed bill and a vote of 2/3 of the members in the second house are required to override the governor's veto

2) if the governor vetoes a bill at the end of a session, it cannot be overridden
d. item veto - in appropriation bills, the governor has the option to veto a specific item within the bill

17. all bills except appropriations bills do not become laws until 90 days after session adjourns; this allows time to inform the public

B. Senate bill - basically the same procedure as a House bill

1. introduction by a senator
2. first reading and referral to committee by Lt. Governor
3. committee consideration and report
4. second reading, debate and vote
5. third reading and final passage
6. first reading in the House
7. House committee consideration and report
8. second reading in the House
9. third reading in the House
10. return to the Senate
11. conference committee
12. conference committee report
13. enrollment
14. signatures of the Lt. Governor and secretary
15. signatures of the chief clerk and speaker
16. action by the governor

Multiple Choice Questions 

Web Links
Chapter 6: The Legislature

Texas Legislative Council
Legislation Reference Library
Texas House of Representatives
Texas Senate