The Texas Legislature meets in January of every odd-numbered year and is in session for 140 days. During the first 30 days of a legislative session, lawmakers are allowed to introduce bills, take action on emergency priority items from the governor, deal with emergency appropriations and confirm gubernatorial appointees. During the following 30 days, committees can begin holding hearings on legislation.
According to the Texas Constitution, lawmakers can begin voting on bills in the House and Senate on the 61st day of each session. They have 80 days to consider and pass legislation before the session wraps up in May.
If either chamber wants to consider a bill within the first 60 days, four-fifths of the chamber must vote in favor of the motion. That is, 120 of the House’s 150 members or 25 of the Senate’s 31 members must approve the change. This rarely happens, as lawmakers are typically divided on their goals for each session.
Some lawmakers say these rules are too strict and limit how thoroughly they can consider important bills.
As a result, Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, filed Senate Joint Resolution 59. The resolution would allow lawmakers to begin considering bills on the 31st day of the session—giving them 110 days to vote on and pass their proposals. In that case, committees could begin holding hearings immediately after the Legislature convenes.
According to the resolution, each chamber would be required to receive an affirmative vote from at least two-thirds of its members to take up bills within the first 30 days.
Birdwell’s original resolution would have allowed the Legislature to begin considering bills on the first day of the session, but he added an amendment on April 6 to establish the 30-day waiting period. He said this change came from discussions with other lawmakers and concerns raised from the Senate Committee on State Affairs, which held a hearing on the bill.
Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, said the change would allow lawmakers to accomplish more during the early days of a legislative session and look closely at bills.
“[We could] use this as an opportunity for the public to participate more in the process and for us to be more deliberate in looking at fewer bills at one time in committee, so that we can do a better job of really scrutinizing [bills] and making them better,” Hall said.
The resolution passed with a 28-3 vote. It will now head to the Texas House.
If the House approves the proposal, the final decision will be up to Texas voters. The resolution would be placed on all ballots as a constitutional amendment during the November general election.