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Answers to frequently asked questions about the Texas Legislature

Legislators | Legislative sessions | Legislation | Legislative process

How many legislators are in each chamber?
The Texas House of Representatives is composed of 150 members, and the Texas Senate is composed of 31 members. (Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 2). Top

Who leads each chamber?
The Texas House of Representatives is led by the Speaker of the House, who is elected by the House members at the beginning of each session (Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 9(b)). The Texas Senate is led by the Lieutenant Governor, who is elected by the voters of Texas every four years (Texas Constitution, Article IV, Section 16). Top

How long do legislators serve?
Members of the Texas House of Representatives serve two year terms and members of the Texas Senate serve four year terms (Texas Constitution, Article III, Sections 3 and 4). There are no limits on the number of consecutive terms a legislator can serve. Top

When does a newly elected legislator's term of office begin?
House and Senate members begin their terms on the first day of the regular session directly following their election (Texas Constitution, Article III, Sections 3 and 4). Top

How much are legislators paid?
The salary for Texas Legislators is set in Texas Constitution, Article 3, Section 24, and is currently $7200 per year. Legislators are also paid a per diem for each day during a regular or special session. In 2009, the per diem was $168 for both the 81st Regular Session and the 81st, 1st Called Session. The per diem is set by the Texas Ethics Commission in Texas Administrative Code Title 1, Part 2, Rule § 50.1. Most legislators also work separate, full-time jobs in addition to serving in the Texas Legislature. Top

What do legislators do when they are not in session?
Most legislators work separate, full-time jobs in addition to serving as members of the Texas Legislature. When the legislature is not in session, the Speaker and the Lt. Governor direct committees in the House and Senate to conduct interim studies on specific issues. Topics of study can depend on what bills were passed or failed during the previous legislative session, or on issues that are gaining importance for the next legislative session. Interim committees meet as often as necessary to conduct their studies, and will often issue a final report that contains the results of their research. The Legislative Library makes current and previous interim reports available in its Legislative Reports system. Top

How do I find out who my representative or senator is?
The Texas Legislature Online has a tool that allows you to find your state and federal representatives and senators by using your street address, zip code, county, and/or city: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/. The Legislative Library also provides helpful information on its Contacting your legislator page. Top

When does the legislature meet?
The Texas Legislature meets every two years in odd numbered years (Texas Constitution Article 3, Section 5). The session begins at noon on the 2nd Tuesday in January and lasts 140 calendar days. Holidays (ex: Easter, Memorial Day) are considered calendar days. Top

What is a special session?
After the end of a regular session and before the start of the next regular session, the Governor may call a special session to cover specific topics. Special sessions can last no longer than 30 days and are limited to the topics designated by the Governor (Texas Constitution Article 3, Section 40). For a list of special sessions, see the library's Special Sessions and Years page. See also the library's FAQ on Special Sessions. Top

When was the first session?
The first legislative session in the State of Texas began on February 16, 1846 and adjourned May 13, 1846. Start and end dates for all legislative sessions are listed on the library's Sessions and Years page. Top

What does "sine die" mean?
Literally, "without day." The term is used to signify the final adjournment of a session of a legislative body. The body adjourns sine die when it adjourns without appointing a day on which to appear or assemble again. Top

Can members filibuster legislation?
In Texas, a filibuster is allowed only in the Senate. A filibuster occurs when one senator holds the floor through talking or long speeches, without sitting down or leaving the vicinity of the senator's desk. Although the primary purpose of a filibuster is usually to kill a bill, sometimes this is also done to reach a compromise or to delay a vote as long as possible. The filibuster must be on topic; the bill may be read but irrelevant books (i.e. a telephone book) may not be read.

In the House, although members may not use the filibuster, they can use a technique called chubbing. Chubbing is the legislative practice of debating one bill at great length to the detriment of other bills waiting to be heard. It is frequently practiced near the end of session on legislative days that have imposed deadlines. Top

How can I find out how my representative or senator voted on a bill?
Votes by representatives are recorded in the House Journal and votes by senators are recorded in the Senate Journal. Votes are not recorded on every bill. Check the bill history to see if a record vote (RV) was taken, then look up the vote in the House or Senate Journal. Journal availability is discussed in the library's Guide to legislative intent. Top

What topics will the legislature address in the next session?
Topics that will be covered in future sessions are not explicitly stated, however some resources produced by the Legislature can provide insight into issues that are gaining importance for the next session. In the interim between legislative sessions, the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor (Senate) issue a list of items for members to study, called interim charges. Members are organized into committees to study the interim charges, and committees often issue interim reports based on the charges. The Legislative Library makes current and previous interim reports available in its Legislative Reports system. Reviewing interim charges and interim reports can provide insight into what topics might be covered in the next session. The various news outlets are also good sources of potential topics for legislation since they highlight what is on the minds of legislators and the public. Top

How does a bill become law?
The Texas Constitution and the rules of the House and Senate set the procedure which a bill must follow in order to be passed into law. For a full discussion of this process see the Guide to Texas Legislative Information: Process for a Bill Top

When can legislators start filing bills?
Rule 8, Section 7 of the Rules of the Texas House of Representatives and Rule 7.04 of the Senate Rules discuss bill prefiling. Legislators can start filing (introducing) bills on the first Monday after the general election preceding the next regular legislative session. Pre-filing for the 82nd Regular Session (2011) begins on November 8, 2010. Pre-filing of bills for a special session can begin 30 days prior to a special session. Top

When is the last day a bill can be introduced?
Bills and joint resolutions may be introduced during the first 60 calendar days of the regular session. After the first 60 calendar days of a regular session, any bill or joint resolution, except local bills, emergency appropriations, and all emergency matters submitted by the governor in special messages to the legislature, shall require an affirmative vote of four-fifths of those members present and voting to be introduced (See Rule 8, Section 8, Rules of the Texas House of Representatives and Rule 7.07 of the Senate Rules). Top

How long does the governor have to sign a bill?
Bills that pass the House and Senate are sent to the Governor to sign or veto. The Governor has 10 days (not counting Sundays) to return the bill to the Legislature with objection. If after 10 days the bill is not returned to the Legislature by the Governor with objections, the bill becomes law as if the Governor had signed it.

If the Legislature has adjourned sine die, or if the bill is presented to the governor less than 10 days (not counting Sundays) prior to final adjournment, the Governor has 20 days (counting Sundays) after the final day of the session to sign or veto the bill. If neither action is taken, the bill becomes law without the Governor's signature (Texas Constitution Article 4, Section 14). Top

Can the legislature override a governor's veto?
Yes, overriding a governor's veto requires a vote of two-thirds of the members present in the chamber from which the legislation originated, and a vote of two-thirds of the members in the opposite chamber Texas Constitution Article IV, Section 14). The legislature cannot override a governor's veto after the session ends. Top

Can line-item vetoes be overridden?
Yes, line-item vetoes can be overridden by two-thirds of the members present in each chamber (Texas Constitution Article IV, Section 14). Top

Can the legislature override a veto from a previous session?
There is some debate over this matter, however the 1875 Constitutional Convention removed the ability for the legislature to consider veto items from a previous session. Additional information can be found in the following resources:

Top

Can a governor veto a proposed constitutional amendment?
No, the governor may not veto joint resolutions proposing amendments to the state constitution. Top

How is the state appropriations (budget) bill written?
Creating the Texas budget bill is a two year process. In the first year, state agencies work with the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) and the Governor's Office of Budget, Planning and Policy to develop their long-term strategic plans and their legislative appropriations requests (LARs). These meetings are also used to determine each agency's performance measures.

During the Fall before each legislative session, the LBB writes a draft appropriations bill based on each agency's LAR. When the legislative session begins, the draft appropriations bill is filed and worked on separately by the House (in the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittees) and the Senate (in the Senate Finance Committee). Changes made to the bill in each chamber must be reconciled in a final version by a Conference Committee. When the governor receives the appropriations bill from the Legislature, he or she has the authority to veto line-items on the budget bill. If the legislature is still in session when that authority is exercised, it may override the governor's veto(es) by a two-thirds majority vote in each house.

The final appropriations bill takes effect on September 1st of that year and covers the two year period following each regular legislative session. For more detailed information on the budget process in Texas, please visit our state budget page. Top

When does a bill that passes become effective?
A bill cannot become effective until at least 90 days after the session ends, unless two thirds of the legislature votes to allow it to become effective earlier (Texas Constitution Article III, Section 39). Top

For bills that become effective 90 days after adjournment, when is day one of the 90 days?
Day one of the 90 days is the first calendar day after session adjourns sine die. Saturdays and Sundays can count as the first day. The last day of session is not included as day one. Top

What if a governor does not sign a bill by the bill's effective date?
If a governor does not sign a bill by the bill's effective date, the bill will be effective the date the governor signs the bill, or the date the governor allowed it to become law without signing it, assuming the governor does not veto the bill (Texas Constitution Article IV, Section 14). Top

What happens to a bill if it does not pass?
Bills that do not make it completely through the legislative process die with the end of the session and are not automatically reintroduced during the next session. Language from some bills that are stalled in the legislative process can be added as amendments to other bills on a similar topic in the same session. Top

What is a non-substantive revision bill?
Government Code 323.007 requires the Texas Legislative Council (TLC) to arrange all of the statutes into topical codes (i.e. Human Resources, Tax., etc.). This process is known as the "Continuing Statutory Revision Program" and will eventually compile all laws into 27 topical codes. A non-substantive revision bill is legislation that presents the proposed language for all or part of one of these codes. See Section 8.09 of the TLC Drafting Manual for more information. Top

What is an omnibus bill?
An omnibus bill is a bill regarding a single subject that combines many different aspects of that subject. The Texas Constitution prohibits federal-style omnibus bills, which include many different topics (Texas Constitution Article 3, Section 35). Top

Can either chamber introduce bills that create revenue (taxes)?
No, Article III, Section 33 of the Texas Constitution states that "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives." Top

How often are legislative districts redrawn?
Legislative districts are redrawn every ten years by the Legislature in the first session following the federal census (Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 28). If the legislature does not enact a law setting up the new districts in the regular session, the Texas Constitution (Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 28) requires the Legislative Redistricting Board meet and adopt a plan. For additional information see the Texas Legislative Council's Texas Redistricting page. Top

How can I track a bill from the current session?
Up-to-date information about bills from the current session can be accessed through the Texas Legislature Online site (www.legis.state.tx.us). Top

How do I research legislation from previous sessions?
Archived bills from the 46th – 77th Legislatures are available in the library's Legislative Archive System. Top

How do I compile a legislative history?
The basic steps in researching legislative history are discussed in the library's Legislative Intent Guide. Top

Sources used:
Texas Constitution
Texas Statutes
Guide to Texas Legislative Information - Glossary
Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual