Legislative Framework Texas, like 48 other states, uses a bicameral lawmaking body to enact bills and adopt resolutions. The smaller chamber in Texas is called the Senate (with 31 members); the lower chamber is called the House (with 150 members). Election and Terms of Office Representatives serve 2-year terms and senators serve 4-year terms—each beginning in January of odd-numbered years. There is no limit on the number of terms a member may serve. If a member of the legislature dies, resigns, or is expelled (removed) from office, the vacancy is filled by special election.
Legislative Framework Sessions A regular session of the legislature is held every odd-numbered year and lasts for a maximum of 140 days Special sessions, which can be called only by the governor, can last up to 30 days. During a special session, the legislature may consider only those matters placed before it by the governor. There is no limit as to how many special sessions can be called. Limits on the length of sessions reflect the distrust that people have in their legislative body and a general fear of change Gov. Clements – “all kinds of bad things can happen when the legislature is in session.”
Legislative Framework Districting Redistricting, reflective of population changes, is supposed to be done immediately following the decennial (10 yr.) census. Redrawing of boundaries after the federal census to create districts with approximately equal population Conducted the first odd-numbered year after the decennial census In Texas, the first legislative and congressional elections in districts based on the 2010 census will be conducted in November 2012 for offices filled in January 2013. Redistricting was completed in November 2011, but was halted in March 2012 by the U.S. District Court of West Texas An interim plan was announced in March 2012
Legislative Framework Districting Issues with redistricting Can take away areas of constituent who has provided strong voter support to a particular legislator May add an area of constituents who produce little support and much opposition for a legislator May produce a new district that includes the residences of two or more representatives or senators Only one of whom can be reelected to represent the district Can be used for gerrymandering purposes Drawing the boundaries of a district to include or exclude certain groups of voters and thus affect election outcomes
Legislative Framework Districting Ideal District Plans (2011) Texas Census Population (2010) – 25,145,561 Texas Congressional Districts – 36 Ideal Population – 698,488 Texas State Senate Districts – 31 Ideal Population – 811,147 Texas State House Districts – 150 Ideal Population – 167,637 Texas State Board of Education – 15 Ideal Population – 1,676, 371
Legislative Framework Districting State Legislative Districts The Texas Constitution stipulates, “the legislature shall, at its first session after the publication of each United States decennial census, apportion the State into Senatorial and Representative districts.” Federal courts applied the ―one man, one vote‖ principle to Texas, but every redistricting has been followed by complaints about gerrymandering. If the legislature fails to redistrict, then the Legislative Redistricting Board does the necessary redistricting. All members of the Texas Legislature are elected in single-member districts. Area that elects only 1 representative to serve on a policymaking body Texas enacted this in 1971
Legislative Framework Districting U.S. Congressional Districts In the year after a federal census, the Texas Legislature is supposed to draw new district lines for its U.S. congressional districts (from which representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives are elected). Per the 2000 census, Texas’ 32 congressional districts should have an ideal population of 651,619 After the 2010 census, Texas will have 36 congressional districts with an average of 698,488 per district This process is not as simple as it seems and often presents political challenges to lawmakers. 2003 redistricting plan by Tom DeLay
Legislators Members of the Texas Legislature may not hold another government office and must meet specific constitutional requirements. However, the biographical data for members of recent Texas legislatures suggest informal qualifications that restrict opportunities for election to either of the two chambers.
Legislators Qualifications and Characteristics Except for state residency and age, the qualifications are the same for both chambers. Citizenship, qualified voting status, and district residency of one year apply to both chambers. To be elected to the House, one must have lived in Texas for at least 2 years and be at least 21 years of age. Election to the Senate requires one to have lived in Texas for 5 years and to be at least 26 years old. The minimum age requirements are usually well below the actual age of most first-time members. Legislators tend to be Anglo, Protestant, male, between 35 and 50 years of age, native born, attorneys or businesspersons, with limited prior legislative service.
Legislators Gender and Ethnic Classifications Ethnic and racial minorities may be underrepresented, but their numbers continue to increase. Women are also underrepresented. Political Party Affiliation Though most legislators were still Democrats in 1999, by 2003 both chambers had gone under Republican control for the first time since Reconstruction. Since that year, each chamber has produced more ―party-line‖ votes Democrats voting one way on an issue and Republicans voting the other way.
Legislators Education and Occupation In government, as in business, most positions of leadership call for college credentials. Nearly all members of the Texas Legislature claim at least some time in college and most have at least one degree. Members of the legal profession have a dominant influence because they are more available to be candidates for office. Lawyer-legislators often face conflict-of-interest charges. Lesser numbers of real estate and insurance people, and some farmers, ranchers, and teachers have also served. Medical personnel, engineers, and accountants have held few legislative seats. Laborers have held almost none.
Legislators Religious Affiliation The religious affiliation of each legislator is not a matter of record, but it appears that Catholic senators and representatives are most numerous, followed (in order) by Baptists, Methodists, and Episcopalians. Religious affiliation has some significance because many top issues today relate to spiritual or moral values.
Legislators Legislative Experience Experience is measured in terms of turnover (first-termers replacing experienced members who have retired or lost an election) and tenure (years served in a legislative chamber). For the ten recent Texas legislatures (72nd–81st), the average turnover in the House was 26 or about 17 percent of the membership every 2 years. In the Senate, it was 4.4 or about 14 percent. Turnover tends to be higher for the first legislature following redistricting. To date, all efforts to adopt term limits have been unsuccessful.
Compensation Texas’s legislators receive low pay, reasonable allowances, and a relatively generous retirement pension after a minimum period of service. Pay and Per Diem Allowance Legislative salaries are relatively low because voters must approve any increase. A legislator’s salary is current $7,200 per year plus a per diem, currently set at $168.00 for every day spent in actual service on legislative business. The $7,200 annual salary has not been increased since 1975.
Compensation Pay and Per Diem Allowance State Annual Salary California $95,291 New York $79,500 Oklahoma $38,400 Florida $29,602 Louisiana $16,800 Arkansas $15,362 Texas $7,200 New Mexico $0.00
Compensation Expenses Allowances At the beginning of a session, each chamber authorizes contingency expense allowances. For example, the House authorized every representative’s operating account to be credited monthly, from January 2009 to January 2011, with $13,250 to cover the cost of travel within Texas, postage, office operations, and staff salaries. From January 2009 to January 2011, each senator in the 81st Legislature had a maximum monthly allowance of $37,500 for intrastate travel expenses and staff salaries. Like representatives, senate members can supplement staff salaries with money from campaign contributions.
Compensation Retirement Pension Under the terms of the State Employees Retirement Act of 1975, legislators contribute 8 percent of their state salaries to a retirement fund. Retirement pay for senators and representatives amounts to 2.3 percent of the state-funded portion of a district judge’s annual salary ($125,000 in fiscal years 2010 and 2011) for each year served. Roughly accrue $2,875 per year of service Legislators with twelve years of service may retire at age fifty, and those with eight years of service may retire at age sixty.
Legislative Organization Presiding Officers Lieutenant Governor: President of the Senate The people of the state elect the presiding officer of the Senate for a 4- year term. The position of lieutenant governor is recognized as perhaps the most powerful in the state. The lieutenant governor is first in line of succession in the event of the death, resignation, or removal of the governor. When the governor is absent from the state, the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor. The lieutenant governor’s salary is the same as those of senators and representatives: $7,200 per year.
Legislative Organization Presiding Officers Speaker of the House The presiding officer of the House is an elected member of the House and is chosen by a majority of the membership of the House. Like the lieutenant governor, the speaker is a powerful legislative leader. Selection of the speaker involves a great deal of political activity. Jobs Appoints all chairs and vice chairs of House substantive and procedural committees Appoints all members of House procedural committees Recognizes members who wish to speak on the House floor or to make a motion Assigns bills and resolutions to House committees Votes (rarely) on bills and resolutions Joint-chairs, with the lieutenant governor, the Legislative Council, the Legislative Budget Board, and the Legislative Audit Committee
Legislative Organization Committee System Presiding officers appoint committee chairs and vice chairs, and they determine the committees to which bills will be referred. Committee membership goes a long way in determining the outcome of legislation. Substantive Committees Consider bills and resolutions related to the subject identified by its name (e.g. House Agriculture Committee) Procedural Committees Consider bills and resolutions related primarily to procedural legislative matters Calendars Committee, House Administration Committee
Legislative Organization House Committees Most substantive committees in the House use a limited seniority system for selecting membership. Substantive committees are responsible for participating in the budgetary and general law process. Seniority does not apply to membership on the six procedural committees, each of which considers bills and resolutions relating primarily to an internal legislative matter. Although substantive and procedural committees are established under House rules adopted in each regular session, the speaker independently creates select committees and appoints all members. Considers legislation that crosses committee jurisdictional lines or may conduct special studies
Legislative Organization Senate Committees Senate rules provide for standing committees (but do not identify them as substantive or procedural committees) and special interim committees (for studying important policy issues between sessions). Membership of all Senate committees is appointed by the lieutenant governor.
Legislative Organization Legislative Caucus System Caucuses are legislative organizations based on partisan, philosophical, racial, ethnic, or other special interests. Although increasingly important, they are prohibited from receiving public money and using state office space. Party Caucus In the 1980s and 1990s, the growing importance of party caucuses in each chamber of the Texas Legislature was one indication that Texas was becoming a two-party state. The House Democratic Caucus was organized in 1981, the Republican Caucus in 1989. Party caucuses take policy positions on some issues and promote unity among their members.
Legislative Organization Legislative Caucus System Racial/Ethnic Caucuses In the U.S. Congress and in many state legislatures, racial and ethnic minorities organize and form voting blocs to maximize their power. Because African Americans and Latinos constitute significant minorities in the Texas Legislature, it is not surprising that they have formed caucuses for this purpose.
Legislative Organization Legislative Caucus System Racial/Ethnic Caucuses Legislative Black Caucus This group has concentrated on issues affecting African American Texans, such as the 2001 hate crimes bill that became law. Mexican American Legislative Caucus Since the 1980s this groups has successfully pushed for legislation placing farm workers under state workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, and minimum wage protection. Ideological Coalitions Two House-based ideological caucuses have emerged. The Texas Conservative Coalition attracts Republicans and conservative Democrats, The liberal Legislative Study Group appeals to many Democrats (including several who are also members of the Legislative Black Caucus and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus).
Legislative Operations As the chief agent in making public policy in Texas state government, the legislature must have powers to function, and legislators need immunity from interference while performing their official duties. Lawmaking is governed by detailed rules of procedure for each legislative chamber.
Legislative Operations Powers and Immunities Through control of the public purse, the legislature is the dominant branch of the Texas government. Legislators also enjoy immunities that allow them to operate freely. Making Public Policy Simple Resolutions (H.R. or S.R.) Involve action by a majority of only one house and are not sent to the governor. Adoption requires a simple majority vote (more than half) of members present. Establishing the chambers rules, handing out office assignments, and making a statement on some event or achievement are examples.
Legislative Operations Powers and Immunities Making Public Policy Concurrent Resolutions (H.C.R. or S.C.R.) Involve action by both houses (simple majority in each) and are sent to the governor. Examples include resolutions requesting action by the U.S. Congress, demanding information from state agencies, and establishing joint study committees composed of senators and representatives. Joint Resolutions (H.J.R. or S.J.R.) Involve action by both houses and are not sent to the governor. Except for the proposal of state constitutional amendments, which requires a two-thirds majority, a simple majority vote is needed. Ratification of United States constitutional amendments is done by joint resolution.
Legislative Operations Powers and Immunities Making Public Policy Bills (H.B. or S.B.) A bill is a proposed law or statute Special Bills Special bills make exceptions to general laws for the benefit of a specific individual, class, or corporation. General Bills General bills apply to all people or property in Texas. Local Bills A local bill affects a single unit of government (city, county, and so forth).
Legislative Operations Powers and Immunities Making Public Policy Constitutional Amendment Power Amendments to the Texas Constitution are proposed by a two-thirds majority vote of the total membership of each house (See Chapter 2). If so provided, amendments to the U.S. Constitution are ratified by a simple majority vote of the members present and voting in each chamber.
Legislative Operations Powers and Immunities Making Public Policy Administrative and Investigative Power The legislature defines the responsibilities of state agencies and imposes restrictions on them through appropriation of money for their operation and through oversight of their activities. Furthermore, most gubernatorial appointments must be confirmed by a two- thirds vote in the Senate. More critical is the custom of senatorial courtesy governors generally will not propose a candidate for nomination to boards and commissions without first checking with the senator from the prospective appointee’s home district in order to ensure that the appointee is acceptable to the senator. Finally, the legislature has the power to subpoena witnesses to testify, administer oaths, and compel submission of records and documents.
Legislative Operations Powers and Immunities Making Public Policy Impeachment and Removal Powers Impeachment, by a simple majority vote, is conducted in the House Determination of guilt is by a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate, which results in removal. Immunities The Texas Constitution confers upon legislators immunity from suit for slander for remarks made on the floor and immunity from arrest while attending, or traveling to or from, a legislative session. Charges of treason, felony, or breach of peace are not included in this immunity
Legislative Operations Powers and Immunities Procedure Enacting a law is not the only way to get things done in Austin. Passing bills and adopting resolutions, however, are the principal means whereby members of the Texas Legislature participate in making public policy. Rules To guide legislators in their work, each chamber adopts its own set of rules at the beginning of every regular session. Whether a bill is passed or defeated depends heavily on the skills of sponsors and opponents in using House rules and Senate rules.
A Bill Becomes a Law The Texas Constitution requires that regular sessions of the legislature be divided into three periods—two 30-day periods and one 80-day period. 1st 30 day period – introduction of bills and resolutions, action o emergency appropriations, and the confirmation or rejection of recess appointments 2nd 30 day period – committee consideration of bills and resolutions Last 80 days – floor debate and voting on bills and resolutions Bills can originate in either chamber.
A Bill Becomes a Law Introduction in the House Introduction in the House may be made by any member, who files a specified number of copies of a bill with the chief clerk. First Reading (House) and Referral by Committee The reading clerk reads the caption of the bill, and the speaker then assigns the bill to the appropriate committee according to topic.
A Bill Becomes a Law House Committee Consideration and Report Some bills are pigeonholed, whereas other bills receive a hearing. Few bills are sent to subcommittee (this is usually a method for defeating a bill). Bills can be amended to any degree the committee wants. Those bills that are approved by a majority of the committee members are sent to the committee coordinator, then to the rules committee to establish procedure, and then to the calendar committee for placement on the appropriate calendar.
A Bill Becomes a Law Second Reading (House) The second reading, usually by caption only, is followed by floor debate. After discussion ends and any amendments are added, a vote is taken on engrossment (a motion to print the bill). A simple majority is needed for engrossment House rules prohibit ghost voting unless a member has given permission for the vote to be cast (since 2009) Pressing the voting button for another representative Another issue that occasionally occurs during this phase is chubbing A practice whereby supporters of a bill engage in lengthy debate for the purpose of using time and thus preventing floor action on another bill they oppose
A Bill Becomes a Law Third Reading (House) Bills must be passed, once again, but a two-thirds majority is needed to add amendments. Second and third readings cannot be on the same day, unless the bill is designated as an emergency bill. Once passed at this stage, the bill goes to the next chamber.
A Bill Becomes a Law First Reading (Senate) The bill is transmitted from the House to the Senate, where the bill is read (by caption) and the lieutenant governor sends it to the appropriate committee according to topic. Senate Committee Consideration and Report A majority vote of the committee members is needed for passage. The committee can change any part of the bill it wants to.
A Bill Becomes a Law Second Reading (Senate) The Senate debates the bill, considers amendments, and puts the bill to a vote. Bills are supposed to be taken up in the order that standing committee reports are submitted. A ―blocker bill‖ is traditionally placed at the head of the line However, a two-thirds vote (2/3s rule) of the total membership may call a bill out of calendar order to bypass the blocker bill This is the method by which bills come up for consideration. During the debate, senators may talk for as long as they are able. Known as filibustering This can be bypassed by a non-debatable motion to require an immediate vote However, 5 senators must second the motion and then a majority vote must carry to move forward with voting
A Bill Becomes a Law Third Reading (Senate) With the suspension of the rules (by a four-fifths vote), a bill passes third reading. Return to the House If the Senate bill is identical to the House bill, the bill is given to the enrolling clerk, who delivers a perfect bill to the speaker. Conference Committee If a bill has been changed by one house and the other house does not agree to the changes, five members of each house are selected by the presiding officers to iron out the differences in conference.
A Bill Becomes a Law Conference Committee Report The conference committee report must be accepted by a majority vote in each house (no amendments may be added). Enrollment If each house accepts the conference committee report, then the bill is sent to the enrolling clerk. Signatures of the Chief Clerk and Speaker The bill is read by caption only, signed, and sent to the Senate. Signatures of the Secretary of the Senate and Lt. Governor In the Senate, the bill is read by caption only, signed, and sent to the governor
A Bill Becomes a Law Action by the Governor The governor has several options, depending on whether the legislature is still in session. Legislature in Session The governor may sign the bill Veto the bill within 10 working days Or, if after 10 working days he or she does not veto or sign the bill, the bill becomes law without his or her signature. If the bill is vetoed, then each house has the opportunity to override (assuming that they are still in session). Legislature Not in Session The governor has twenty calendar days to act on a bill. If not vetoed, the bill becomes law (usually ninety days after the end of the session).
A Bill Becomes a Law Carrying the Bill Just as important as any of the above procedural steps in the passage of a bill to a citizen or group interested in its passage is finding the right senator and representative to carry the bill. This means that a powerful and knowledgeable member will use his or her talent, experience, and political expertise to shepherd the bill through his or her chamber.
Influences within the LegislativeEnvironment Although, in theory, legislators are to be influenced mostly by their constituents, in practice many citizens are uninterested and legislators’ actions bear little relationship to the needs of their constituents. The Governor The threat of a gubernatorial veto plays an important role in legislative behavior. Legislators tend to support gubernatorial measures because the governor is close at hand and can reciprocate in kind.
Influences within the LegislativeEnvironment Judges, the Attorney General, and the Comptroller of Public Accounts Legislators are not apt to spend time and effort on measures that will be struck down by the courts or by an opinion by the attorney general. The state comptroller influences legislators by creating a ceiling for legislative spending. Lobbyists Laws that regulate lobbying activities are relatively weak, and the influence of lobbyists is considered to be very strong. Lobbyists carry the image of corruption, but they also perform tasks necessary to the legislative process.
Influences within the LegislativeEnvironment Research Organizations The Legislative Council The Texas Legislative Council performs research on topics suggested by members and approved by the leadership. It also has a bill-drafting staff, which many members utilize in the highly technical task of writing legislation. When a bill requires the expenditure of state funds, a fiscal note is obtained from the Legislative Budget Board. The House Research Organization The House Research Organization (HRO) is an organization somewhat independent of the speaker’s influence. It prepares bill summaries and a regular report during the session on the progress of legislation.
Influences within the LegislativeEnvironment Research Organizations The Senate Research Center The Senate Research Center performs for the Senate much the same function as does the HRO. It is not, however, as independent of leadership control. The Center for Public Policy Priorities The Center for Public Policy Priorities is liberal-leaning and concentrates on how issues affect low-income Texans. The Texas Public Policy Foundation The Texas Public Policy Foundation is conservative and emphasizes free-enterprise solutions to public issues.
Influences within the LegislativeEnvironment The Media The Legislative Reference Library has a daily clipping service, providing members with articles from the state’s press. Generally, legislators know they will receive publicity on some actions. It cannot be accurately assessed how this affects a member’s voting.