Take a moment and savor that holiday spirit. You will need it when the Texas Legislature saddles up on January 8, 2019, to kick off its 86th session.
The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days every two years, whether it needs to or not. There are some scrooges who claim that
The Texas Legislature is made
The 86th Session is forecast to be very active.
The first day that bills could be filed was November 12, 2018, and the last day falls on March 8, 2019. As of December 4th, 462 bills had been filed in the House, and 215 bills had been filed in the Senate. Handicappers are betting over 6,000 bills will be filed before the lights are turned out.
What pending bills are getting the most public attention? Marijuana, daylight savings time, carrying firearms, the death penalty, immigration and a sprinkling of mental health and Medicaid.
So how do you keep up on the action? Let’s do a quick primer. A bill is referenced by the Session number, whether it is in the House or the Senate, and the sequence of filing. So 86R H.B. 233 means that bill was filed in the 86th Session in the House, and was the 233rd to be filed. If it had been filed in the Senate, then it would be 86R S.B. 233.
Once the Session starts, the games begin
All of the filed bills must be read into the record, and then assigned to a committee. The author of the bill then requests a committee hearing. At the hearing, the author presents his bill to the full committee, a process quaintly termed as “laying his bill out to be heard.” There is a committee vote, and if a majority of the members vote yes, then the bill makes it out of committee.
After a huge amount of shenanigans and back-room dealing, the bill may make it to the floor for a vote. It actually must pass twice in each chamber before it can go any further, and somewhere in there it has to be read on three separate days. Then it makes its way across the rotunda to the other chamber, where the process starts over.
A successful bill eventually lands on the Governor’s desk for signature, veto, or a non-action that lets the bill drift into law.
All of this is followed rapaciously by lobbyists and special interest groups. If you want to be in the know, then you can follow along on capitol.texas.gov/Reports/BillsBy.aspx.
Two days every 140 years is starting to look like a good idea.
Virginia Hammerle, Managing Attorney for Hammerle Finley Law Firm, has been recognized from 2012-2018 as a Super Lawyer, a Thompson Reuters Publication. See hammerle.com for her blog and newsletter sign-up. This column does not constitute legal advice.