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Frequently asked questions about special sessions

Does the Governor have to wait twenty days after the end of the regular session before calling a special session?
No. Texas Constitution, Article 4, section 8(a) does not place time limits on the Governor's power to convene a special session. The Constitution states that "The Governor may, on extraordinary occasions, convene the Legislature at the seat of Government, or at a different place, in case that should be in possession of the public enemy or in case of the prevalence of disease threat. His proclamation therefor shall state specifically the purpose for which the Legislature is convened." The interpretive commentary following Article 4, section 8 in Vernon's Constitution of the State of Texas Annotated explains:
[The Governor] "may call at any time and for any reason, although he must state his purpose in the proclamation calling the legislators to special session."
Special sessions began the day after the close of a regular session (sine die) in the 25th, 28th, 38th, 62nd, 69th, 70th, 82nd and 83rd Legislatures. Special sessions began on sine die in the 29th and 31st Legislatures.
Does the Governor have to give members of the legislature advance notice before calling and convening a special session?
No. Texas Constitution, Article 4, section 8(a) places no time limits on the Governor's power to convene a special session. The Constitution states that "The Governor may, on extraordinary occasions, convene the Legislature at the seat of Government, or at a different place, in case that should be in possession of the public enemy or in case of the prevalence of disease threat. His proclamation therefor shall state specifically the purpose for which the Legislature is convened." The interpretive commentary included in Vernon's Constitution of the State of Texas Annotated explains:
[The Governor] "may call at any time and for any reason, although he must state his purpose in the proclamation calling the legislators to special session."
At 1:30 a.m., on June 2nd, 1987, Governor Bill Clements called a special session of the 70th Legislature to begin at 11 a.m. the same day. The special session lasted only one day. Governor Clements called the fifth special session of the 71st Legislature under similar circumstances.
Can the Legislature consider any topic during a special session?
No. Article 3, Section 40 of the Texas Constitution states that when the Legislature is convened in special session, there shall be no legislation upon subjects other than those designated in the proclamation of the Governor calling such session, or presented to them by the Governor. An extensive discussion of this issue can be found in the appendix to the Senate Rules of the 82nd Legislature.
Can more than one topic be covered in a special session?
Yes. Texas Constitution Article 3, section 40 places no limitation on the number of topics a Governor can designate in a special session proclamation. All topics need not be listed in a single proclamation: the governor many expand his/her call to include additional topics at any time. Legislation was allowed on 153 topics during the 43rd Legislature, 1st Called Session and 72 topics during the 72nd Legislature, 2nd Called Session.
Is there a limit on the number of special sessions that can be called between regular legislative sessions?
No. The Texas Constitution does not limit the number of special sessions a governor may call in between two regular legislative sessions.
Does there have to be a break between special sessions?
No. The Governor may call special sessions back-to-back. As an example, the 1st Called Session of the 79th Legislature ended on July 20, 2005 and the 2nd Called Session began on July 21, 2005.
The Governor may also convene a new special session on the same day that a special session ends. As an example, the 1st Called Session of the 78th Legislature ended on July 28, 2003 and the 2nd Called Session began at 3:15pm the same day.
How long after a special session ends does the Governor have to veto bills?
Texas Constitution, Article 4, section 14, which grants the Governor the power to veto bills, draws no distinction between regular and special sessions.
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 fewer 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).
Can joint resolutions be introduced in a special session?
Yes. Texas Constitution, Article 17, section 1, allows constitutional amendments to be considered during a special session provided "the matter is included within the purposes for which the session was convened."
Can the Governor call only one chamber of the legislature into a special session?
No. The interpretive commentary following Texas Constitution, Article 3, section 8, in Vernon's Constitution of the State of Texas Annotated states:
Unlike the president of the United States, the Texas governor may not call either house alone into special session.
Do special sessions have to last 30 days?
No. Texas Constitution Article 3, section 40 limits special sessions to a maximum of thirty days but imposes no minimum. The 1st called session of the 38th Legislature met for only one hour. No legislation was enacted.