LRL Home - Points of Interest

Understanding Budget Riders

There comes a time in every session when advancing the state budget becomes the primary focus of attention. Since this pivotal season is upon us, we thought it would be an excellent time to broach the subject of budget riders.
What is a budget rider?
Riders are enumerated policy directives or contingent appropriations that follow traditional line item appropriations in the General Appropriations Act. The term also applies to general provisions in Article IX and special provisions at the end of each article.[i]
Riders convey specific instructions on how agency funds can be collected or spent. Riders may also express legislative intent and be used to provide funds for administrative functions.


Where do riders come from?
In most cases, riders carry over from one biennium to the next. Riders passed in the previous session are routinely included in introduced versions of House and Senate appropriations bills.
The opportunity to alter rider language first occurs in the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees. In addition to making decisions about line item appropriations, House and Senate budget committees consider rider additions and revisions. The work of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) is essential to this process. Decision documents prepared for the committees are available on the LBB's website. Initial and adopted versions of the documents include items discussed during the decision-making process. Adopted rider documents, which provide the text of new and amended riders as passed by the committees, are particularly helpful to researchers. 

Riders can also be added, amended, and deleted on the floor and again in conference committee. Relevant documents are available through the Texas Legislature Online and LBB websites.
Where can I find the text of a rider?
Locating the text of a rider within a General Appropriations Act is simple when you know the article number, agency name, rider number, and year of passage. The task is more complex when available information is inaccurate or incomplete. In any case, the LRL is happy to help with the search. 
In addition to copies of General Appropriations Acts going back to the 40th Legislature, introductions to the budget process from the Senate Research Center and House Research Organization are available on the Library's website. Recent GAAs and supporting documents are available through the Legislative Budget Board

[i] Senate Research Center. Budget 101: A Guide to the Budget Process in Texas, 2017, p. 72.

Appropriations Conference Committee Members, 80th-84th Legislatures

As we approach the last month of session, conference committees are starting to be appointed. Conference appointees are entered into the Texas Legislature Online system as they are appointed and are listed just above the actions on the history tab--see HB 1, 84R as an example. For more information on conference committees, click here to read some FAQs.


The first conference committee to be appointed for the 85th is for the budget bill, SB 1. Wondering who has served on past appropriations bill conference committees? Here's who served in the past five sessions. 


84th, HB1 Jane Nelson (chair), Juan Hinojosa, Joan Huffman, Lois Kolkhorst, Charles Schwertner John Otto (chair), Trent Ashby, Sarah Davis, Larry Gonzales, Sylvester Turner
83rd, SB1 Tommy Williams (chair), Robert Duncan, Juan Hinojosa, Jane Nelson, John Whitmire Jim Pitts (chair), Myra Crownover, John Otto, Sylvester Turner, John Zerwas
82nd, HB1 Steve Ogden (chair), Robert Duncan, Juan Hinojosa, Jane Nelson, Tommy Williams Jim Pitts (chair), Myra Crownover, John Otto, Sylvester Turner, John Zerwas
81st, SB1 Steve Ogden (chair), Juan Hinojosa, Florence Shapiro, Royce West, Tommy Williams Jim Pitts (chair), Ruth Jones McLendon, John Otto, Richard Peña Raymond, John Zerwas
80th, HB1 Steve Ogden (chair), Robert Duncan, John Whitmire, Tommy Williams, Judith Zaffirini Warren Chisum (chair), Dan Gattis, Ryan Guillen, Lois Kolkhorst, Sylvester Turner


Week in Review, April 20

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

  • Consider what frustrates Americans about the federal tax system. (Pew Research Center, April 14, 2017)
  • See how adulthood has changed since 1975. (U.S. Census Bureau, April 2017)
  • Explore which states have the most drivers using their phones while on the road. (Axios, April 17, 2017)
  • Look up data and statistics related to population, government finances, and social issues in the United States. (USAFacts, accessed April 20, 2017)
  • Review positive economic news about Texas. (Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, April 2017)

Week in Review, April 13

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

National Library Week 2017

This week, April 9-15, 2017, is National Library Week. Although the LRL is quite busy with activities for the 85th Texas Legislature, we would like to recognize and congratulate all of our many amazing colleagues working in libraries across the nation.

To find out more about what we do, as well as the variety of resources we provide, we invite you to visit and explore our website. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter and Pinterest, read our blog, or subscribe to one of the library's RSS feeds. We use these platforms to share useful information and resources related to Texas and the Texas Legislature.

We aim to provide the best tools and services available for Texas legislative research, and we are proud to continue serving members of the Texas Legislature, state agencies, and the public.


Week in Review, April 6

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

  • Examine Texas' long-term financial challenges. (Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, March 2017)
  • See how many U.S. workers plan to keep working instead of retiring. (Career Builder, March 31, 2017)
  • Explore what's driving income growth across the states. (Governing, March 28, 2017)
  • Consider the possibility of community colleges offering four-year degrees. (Texas Tribune, April 6, 2017)

TxLege Terms: Committee Substitute

In this occasional post, we explain terms used in the Texas legislative environment.


When a house or senate committee is considering a bill, they have various reporting options: they may report favorably without amendments, report unfavorably, report favorably as amended, or report favorably as substituted. The latter is called a "committee substitute."


A committee substitute must be "germane"—it must address the same subject as the original bill.


How can you tell that a bill has been "substituted"? On Texas Legislature Online or the Legislative Archive System, the bill's actions will include entries like "Committee substitute considered in committee" and "Reported favorably as substituted." The committee report will note if it is a substitute, and will add a "CS" to the bill number. (So, HB 20 becomes CSHB 20.) In the Journal, it will be noted with the CS until it passes to engrossment.




Bills in the News: Sexual Assault on Campus

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

Search with the subjects Crimes--Against Persons--Sexual (I0171) AND Education--Higher--Institutions & Programs (I0223) to find bills related to sexual assault on college campuses. Be sure to click on the radio button next to "And" so that bills with both subjects assigned will be returned in your search.






Week in Review, March 30

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

  • Consider Texas' trade policy relating to Israel. (Governing, March 30, 2017)
  • Examine statistics about criminal immigrants. (CATO Institute, March 15, 2017)
  • Read background information on congressional redistricting law and recent court rulings. (Congressional Research Service, March 23, 2017)
  • Read about how budget cuts have affected the U.S. military. (The Heritage Foundation, March 29, 2017)


Research Minute: Finding Committee Minutes and Testimony

When you're researching a bill, committee minutes and testimony are great resources. To find these records, you'll need to know:


  • names of the house and/or senate committees to which the bill was referred, and
  • dates the bill was considered by committee or subcommittee in public hearings.


Find this information by searching Texas Legislature Online (TLO) (1989-present) and/or the Legislative Archive System (LAS) (which has committee information from 1973-present). Enter the bill number, making sure to select the correct chamber and session/year. For HB 1558, 84R, the History tab indicates that the bill was assigned to the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence committee and then the Senate State Affairs committee.


Next, select the Actions tab and scan the list to find "public hearing." HB 1558, 84R was considered in a house committee public hearing on April 14, 2015, and in a senate committee public hearing on May 14, 2015. You can tell which chamber by the "H" or "S" on the far left.



Now, go back and click on those committee links on the History tab. (This part will only work in TLO.) You'll see a list of the committee members for that session, and on the right, a "Meetings" link. Click here to see a list of all of the meetings the committee conducted in that session. Find the hearing date you determined from the action list to access its hearing notice, minutes, and witness list. Since multiple bills often are considered in a single hearing, do a Control-F for your bill number to find the relevant sections. You can also look on the websites for each of the committees (House, Senate), as they sometimes include meeting handouts and transcripts for the current session.



You then can use the committee names and hearing dates to search for the relevant recordings in the house and senate video archives (for which links also are available on TLO and on the "Additional sources" tab in a LAS search). There is a chart in our legislative intent guide with more information about which dates are available online or on audio tape. Transcripts are rare, but House Video/Audio Services (512-463-0920) or Senate Staff Services (512-463-0430) may have transcripts or know if one exists (perhaps with the committee records) for a certain committee hearing.


Another avenue of committee testimony research is the LRL's committee minutes project, which makes available minutes and related documents for house, senate, and joint committees from the 63rd-74th Legislatures (1973-1995). Some have testimony transcripts--it is always worthwhile to check.


For example, a search in the committee minutes database for the Senate Committee on Finance, 72R (1991) yields 92 days' worth of scanned meeting minutes. Most of the documents summarize the proceedings of the meeting and simply make note when testimony was taken, but the March 5, 1991, minutes includes a transcript.


The committee minutes database includes interim committees, so even if you don't have a particular bill in mind, searching here can be helpful for many legislative history projects.



Cover image by Flickr user hyacinth50.

More Entries