THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
Over the past several weeks, I have used my weekly article to introduce to you some of the bills which have been filed for the 82nd Legislative session. In the next couple of weeks I would like to take the opportunity to describe to you the legislative process in which those bills must go through in order 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 each of the chamber’s of the aforementioned 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 jurisdictions for senate committees. Instead the Lieutenant Governor may refer legislation in the Senate to any standing committee or subcommittee, although unofficial subject matter jurisdictions are usually followed.
Once the bill has been assigned to the appropriate committee, it then falls to the chair 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. In order to bring attention to the legislation being heard before a committee, public notice must be provided five days in advance of a public hearing being held by a house committee and twenty-four hours 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, a large number of bills will be unable to make their way out of committee. However if a bill is able to 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 chambers’ respective body as a whole.
In next week’s article I will continue to outline the next steps of the legislative process. In the mean time, 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
• The Texas House of Representatives
• The Texas Senate
If you have questions or comments regarding any of the legislative processes mentioned in this article or any bills which have been filed, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).