LRL Home - Points of Interest

Research Minute: Finding Sunset Bills

Every legislative session, about 20-30 agencies go through the Sunset process—the regular assessment of the continuing need for a state agency or program to exist. The Sunset Advisory Commission submitted its Report to the 85th Legislature on Friday, Feb. 10. Per Sunset procedures, an agency, program, policy, or law will be abolished on its "sunset" date unless the legislature passes a bill to continue it. Such bills often enact revised policies as recommended in the review process.

Wondering how you can find these bills? The Sunset Commission recently added a page dedicated to the 85th Legislature where you can see which agencies were reviewed and what bills have been filed. They also are tweeting Sunset bills as they are filed.


In addition, you can find Sunset bills on Texas Legislature Online. Select "Search" from the top navigation, and pull down to "Bill Search." From that screen, go to the Subjects section and click on "Select subject criteria." This will pull up the box as seen below. (If your pop-up blocker is enabled, you may have to tell it to allow this exception.) Do a search for "sunset," then select "Sunset--Commission Bills (I0772). Click on the right arrow to move it to your "Selected" subjects, then click OK to return to the main Bill Search screen.

From here, you can click on "Search" in the top right corner, and you will get your results. You can refine your results to particular subjects of interest, look back at past years' sunset bills, and more.


Week in Review, February 16

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools.

  • Examine federal funding that goes to cities considered sanctuary cities. (Open the Books, February 2017)
  • Read about the impact of arts education in Texas. (Texas Cultural Trust, 2017)
  • Explore a hundred years of transportation in Texas. (Texas Department of Transportation, 2017)
  • Consider policy proposals related to sexual orientation and gender identity. (The Heritage Foundation, February 13, 2017)


Texas Legislative Guides: 85th Regular Session

This post includes a list of guides published by Texas legislative agencies to assist you in following the legislative process. These guides will help you track and read a bill, understand the terminology used in the Texas Legislature, learn about issues facing the Legislature, and much more.


Texas Legislative Information and Resources, prepared by the Research Division of the Texas Legislative Council for the 85th Legislature (2017).
Identifies resources for locating information that is available about current and past legislation.

Research Spotlight: Legislative Lexicon, prepared by the Texas Senate Research Center (2017).
Provides definitions of words, terms, and phrases used in the Legislature.

Reading Statutes and Bills, prepared by the Research Division of the Texas Legislative Council (2017).
Presents a basic overview of Texas statutes and bills, as well as tips for reading and understanding them.

Topics for the 85th Legislature, by House Research Organization (2016).
Highlights many of the issues the 85th Legislature may consider during its 2017 regular session.

Texas Legislative Glossary, prepared by the Texas Legislative Council for the 85th Legislature.
Defines terms related to the legislative process in Texas.


Issues Facing the 85th Texas Legislature, prepared by the Texas Senate Research Center (2017).
Outlines broad categories and topics of interest for the 85th Legislature.





New Texas African American Monument

The newest monument on the Texas Capitol grounds, unveiled on November 19, 2016, is dedicated to African Americans in Texas. Located on the South Capitol grounds, the monument is made up of bronze panels depicting the historical contributions of African Americans to Texas over the state's long history.


Legislative History

The monument has a legislative history that goes back over 25 years. In 1991, Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Al Edwards passed SCR 49, 72R, directing the State Preservation Board to explore opportunities to revere and honor some of the outstanding historical figures from all ethnic cultures with regard to new monuments on the Capitol grounds. In the following session in 1993, Ellis and Rep. Garnet Coleman passed SCR 97, 73R, directing the State Preservation Board to include in its long-range master plan for the Capitol grounds a permanent monument in tribute to African American and Mexican American Texans.


Later, in 1997, Rep. Al Edwards and Sen. Jerry Patterson passed HB 1216, 75R. The bill created the Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission and gave it a mission to collect and commemorate the history of Juneteenth, the day that marks the arrival of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. At that time, Edwards envisioned the monument as an Emancipation Juneteenth memorial monument.


The 1997 bill was followed by several more legislative measures:
    •  HB 1865, 76R, by Edwards and Sen. Royce West, Relating to the operations of the Texas Emancipation Juneteenth Cultural and Historical Commission.
    •  HB 1368, 76R, by Edwards and Sen. Chris Harris, Relating to the site of the Emancipation Juneteenth memorial monument.
    •  HCR 176, 81R, by Edwards and Sen. Tommy Williams, Expressing continued support for the establishment of a Juneteenth memorial monument on the grounds of the State Capitol at the location previously approved by the State Preservation Board.


In 2011, during the 82nd Regular Session, legislators expanded the scope of the monument to provide a broader representation of African American history in Texas. The bill that made these changes was SB 1928, 82R (by Ellis and Rep. Alma Allen), relating to an African American Texans memorial monument on the Capitol grounds; SCR 51, 82R (by Ellis and Allen) expressed the legislature's support for this shift in the monument's subject matter. The dedication program includes lists of those who served on the Texas African American History Memorial Committee, donors, and others who have been involved with the project.


The monument features notable Texas African Americans including Estevanico de Dorantes (the first African to set foot on Texas soil), Hendrick Arnold (a special agent in the Battle of the Republic and in the Indian wars), and Sam McCullough (one of the first casualties of the Texas Revolution). Emancipation is the central core element of the memorial, featuring a 9-foot-high image of a male and female slave having broken the bonds of slavery, dedicated to the 182,500 slaves that were freed on June 19, 1865. Also illustrated are the slave experience, from arrival to slaves' work in the fields and industry, and depictions of Black Texans' contributions to the state, from the Buffalo Soldiers to musicians to astronauts. To learn more about the monument, please see


Did you know?

Ed Dwight, the sculptor who designed and created the African American Texans monument, also created the memorial to Congressman (and former Texas legislator) Mickey Leland at Houston's Intercontinental Airport.


Governor's Proposed Budget

You may have already seen the Comptroller's Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) and the House and Senate's respective appropriations bills. You also can view Gov. Abbott's proposed budget in the library's governors database by clicking on "governor budgets" in our popular searches.


Additional budget information is available on the library's state budget page.


Week in Review, February 9

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools.

  • Examine the quality of education in each state. (American Legislative Exchange Council, January 24, 2017)
  • Consider the relationship between workforce health and productivity. (Health Affairs, February 2017)
  • Explore school choice resources. (National Conference of State Legislatures, February 3, 2017)
  • Review the economic value of public libraries in Texas. (IC2 Institute, University of Texas at Austin, February 3, 2017)
  • Read about the economic impact of human trafficking in Texas. (Bureau of Business Research at The University of Texas at Austin, December 2016)


Bills in the News: Transportation Network Companies

In this occasional post, we feature topics receiving widespread media coverage, tips for finding bills filed during the 85th legislative session, and related resources.


Bill search


Try using the subject VEHICLES FOR HIRE (S0795) to find bills related to transportation network companies.






Week in Review, February 2

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools.

  • Examine Governor Greg Abbott's proposed budget for 2018-2019. (Office of the Governor, January 2017)
  • Review Texas education statistics in brief. (Texas Education Agency, January 2017)
  • Read about how Texas is adapting to the changing workforce environment. (Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, December 2016)
  • Explore data security laws by state. (National Conference of State Legislatures, January 16, 2017)

State of the State Address

When Gov. Greg Abbott gives his "State of the State" address on January 31, he will carry on a long-standing tradition in Texas leadership, one that pre-dates statehood and governors. The Constitution of the Republic of Texas required the president to provide occasional updates on the state of the government and to recommend areas of attention to the legislature. The practice was carried on when Texas became a state, with the governor presenting the message, and continues to this day.


The governor's mandate, per the Texas Constitution, Article 4, Section 9, is to "give to the Legislature information, by message, of the condition of the State, and he shall recommend to the Legislature such measures as he may deem expedient." In the first State of the State message by Gov. J. Pinckney Henderson on February 24, 1846, his message is something of a to-do list for the newly annexed state. State leaders, from comptroller to United States Congressmen, needed to be elected as soon as possible. Texas needed a new tax system, to determine a way to provide for public schools, to organize judicial districts, and more.


Henderson gave his second State of the State message on December 15, 1847. (That year, Texas got two State of the State messages in December, since Henderson stepped down as governor, and George T. Wood took the position.) Henderson discusses what the Legislature had done to establish Texas as a state in their first year (and admonishes them for what wasn't completed), but also speaks at length about some current events—the Mexican War and "Indian affairs."


Indeed, these messages often begin with a broad overview of the current news, then use those events  to lead in to discussion of specific issues. State of the State topics often are similar to those on the governor's campaign platform, especially if the governor has been recently elected. The address provides legislators with greater insight into the governor's goals for session.


The governor delivers the State of the State address to a joint session, at the Legislature's invitation. (See HCR 48, 84th R.S.) Of course, the general public also can view the speech via television, the Internet, etc., so the Governor's audience for the message is much wider than it used to be.


Today's "State of the State" messages from the governor are similar in many ways to Gov. Henderson's—describing the current health and well-being of Texas, and setting out what the governor sees as priorities that the Legislature ought to tackle to promote future prosperity. While the historical context surrounding the speech changes, themes like education, budget, and transportation (to name a few) recur again and again. The text of past State of the State addresses can be found in the library's governors database by searching for the phrase, "state of the state." 


The screen in the House Chamber displays a welcome message to the members of the House and Senate gathered to hear the governor's message.

Gov. Coke R. Stevenson addresses the 49th Legislature on January 11, 1945. His speech largely looked toward post-World War II planning efforts. Neal Douglass Photography Collection, Austin History Center, accessed via the Portal to Texas History.


Governor's Emergency Items

Did you know that the Texas Constitution prohibits the House and Senate from passing legislation during the first 60 days of a regular legislative session? That is—unless either chamber suspends the rule by a vote of four-fifths of its membership, or if the legislation is an appropriation or other matter declared by the governor to be an emergency. This is part of the order of business set out by Article 3, Section 5, of the Texas Constitution. What constitutes an "emergency"? Anything that the governor wants to be prioritized in that year's session, or any issue the governor wants to support. If a bill is related to a governor's emergency item, members can decide to vote on it earlier in the session.


To take best advantage of that 60-day head start permitted by the emergency designation, the items typically are submitted early in session. Emergency items are ideally matters that could be addressed in the first few months of session. However, the governor can submit emergency items at any time throughout the session. Due to a prohibition in the house rules against considering other bills making an appropriation before the general appropriations bill has finally passed, emergency items submitted by the governor after the first 60 days of a regular session typically relate to appropriations for specific purposes. For example, Gov. William P. Clements submitted two emergency appropriation matters to the 66th Legislature following major tornadoes in Wichita Falls and the surrounding area (filed on April 26, 1979, and May 2, 1979).


Recent emergency matters include legislation relating to transportation, abortion, wildfire damage and recovery, and much more. You can explore a listing of emergency items dating from the 38th session (1923) to the 84th (2015) via the library's governors database



House Journal, 51st R.S. (1949): Governors have used emergency items in different ways over the years, resulting in some submitting items more frequently than others. Govs. Beauford H. Jester and William J. Clements both submitted about 50 emergency items, but Jester spent just two years in office (an average of 25 items/year) and Clements served for a total of eight years (an average of 6.25 items/year). In this 1949 emergency item, Jester hails the work of the Gilmer-Aikin Committee and encourages the Legislature to support its educational reform recommendations.

Senate Journal, 43rd R.S. (1933): In March 1933, Gov. Miriam (Ma) Ferguson issued a general proclamation/legislative message declaring a bank moratorium in an attempt to address the growing financial problems of the Great Depression. Her decree was sustained a few days later by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's declaration of a national bank holiday (with federal guidelines).

Message from the Office of the Governor to the 84th R.S. (2015): The governor's emergency items are published in the House and Senate Journals, and the governors' messages, press releases, and other materials are collected by the library. Many of these documents (such as Gov. Abbott's 2015 item on transportation) also are available online in our House and Senate Journals and Texas governors database.



More Entries