THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS (PART II)
In last week’s article, I began outlining the Texas lawmaking process. In that article, I covered how a law or bill begins from its initial conception to it going before a committee of the respective lawmaking bodies on its way to the Texas House or Senate chamber floor. This week I will cover the rest of the lawmaking process from how the bill makes its way on to the appropriate calendar of each chamber, to it appearing on the Governor’s desk where it may be vetoed, signed or passed into law without the Governor’s signature.
In order to organize the bills, the Texas Senate and House Rules establish the creation of calendars. The Texas House uses two sets of calendars: the Daily House Calendar and the Local and Consent Calendar. The Daily House Calendar may be grouped in to four separate categories in order of priority. Those categories range from an emergency item category to a general state category. The House rules require that each bill come before the entire Texas House of Representatives in the order in which it is placed on the respective calendar. The Local and Consent Calendar, as the name implies, is established for those bills which are considered local in nature or for those which are voted out of a committee unanimously.
The Texas Senate provides for the establishment of a slightly different system. Like the House, the Senate divides the bills into two separate calendars: the Intent Calendar and the Local and Uncontested Calendar. The Senate rules in contrast to the House rules do not require measures to be brought up for consideration in the order listed on the Intent Calendar. The Senate routinely considers only a small portion of those measures listed on the Intent Calendar for any given day.
The bills or laws that make it before the full House or Senate and receive a favorable vote are then passed and forwarded to the opposite legislative body. Simply if the House passes a bill, it then goes to the Senate and vice versa. Then the whole process starts over again— from being assigned to a committee, to then again being placed on the appropriate calendar in order to go before the opposite chamber. During these committee hearings or while the bill is being heard on the chamber floor, a bill may be amended. If the bill is voted out of the chamber with amendments made to it, it is sent back to the originating chamber. If the originating chamber does not concur with the amendments that were made, the bill is then sent to a conference committee.
Conference committees are established to resolve the differences of the two chambers. Five Senators and five House members make-up each conference committee. If the committee is able to reach an agreement, a conference committee report is produced and is then signed by at least three conferees from each chamber. The report is then sent to the presiding officer of each respective chamber for their signature. This, however, does not mark the end for the bill; the final action on a bill now falls to the Governor. The state constitution provides the Governor with twenty days (often known as the “veto period”) after the final adjournment of the legislature to sign the bill, veto it, or to pass it into law without signature.
Those bills which are able to make their way through the entire legislative process as well as the veto period now become our state laws, these new laws represent only a small portion of the legislative ideas which where initiated at the start of the legislative session. If you would like to learn more about the legislative process, you can go to www.tlc.state.tx.us and look under “Guide to Texas Legislative Info”.
If you have questions or comments regarding any of the legislative processes or any bills which have been filed, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).