LRL Home - Points of Interest - Legislative process

How a Bill Becomes a Law

The Texas Constitution and the Rules of the House and Senate set the procedure that a bill must follow in order to be passed into law. Here are the basic steps in the legislative process:

  • Bill filing/introduction
  • First reading and referral to committee
  • Committee consideration
  • Floor consideration on second and third reading
  • Engrossment
  • Consideration in opposite chamber
  • Concurrence in opposite chamber's amendments, or conference committee report
  • Sent to Governor
  • Governor signs bill or takes no action
  • Bill becomes law on effective date

Bills that do not pass or are vetoed by the Governor must be reintroduced the next session; the bill number does not carry over.

 

Several key publications describing the Texas legislative process are available on the Legislative Reference Library website under General Information | Texas legislative agencies & process, including:

 

Bill process flowcharts for the House and Senate. Online versions are available through the Texas Legislative Council.

 

 

 

 

 

The Legislative Process in Texas, by the Texas Legislative Council (November 2018), details each step in the legislative process, from how a bill originates to the filing and publication of laws.

Citizen Handbook: How the Texas Legislature Works, published by the Secretary of the Senate (February 2019), includes a short history of the Texas Capitol, an overview of the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives, legislative advocacy tips, and basic steps in the legislative process.

The Legislative Lexicon, by the Senate Research Center (January 2019), explains the vocabulary of the legislature from A-Z, such as the difference between an engrossed and enrolled bill.

How a Bill Becomes Law: 86th Legislature, by the House Research Organization (February 28, 2019), provides an overview of the legislative process with a focus on House rules.

 

 

 

 

Dates of Interest for the 87th Regular Session

What are the key deadlines for the 87th Regular Session? Official deadlines will be set when the House and Senate adopt rules after session begins, but until then, related provisions in the Texas Constitution and Statutes and the Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual perpetual calendar (shown below) can be useful.

 

November 3, 2020: General election for federal, state, and county officers (Texas Election Code, Section 41.001(a)(3))

 

November 9, 2020: Bill prefiling begins (House Rule 8, Section 7 and Senate Rule 7.04(a))

 

January 12, 2021: 87th Legislature convenes at noon (Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 5(a); Texas Government Code, Section 301.001)

 

March 12, 2021: 60-day bill filing deadline (Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 5(b))

 

May 31, 2021: Adjournment sine die (Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 24(b))

 

June 20, 2021: Post-session 20-day deadline for Governor to sign or veto (Texas Constitution, Article IV, Section 14)

 

August 30, 2021: Effective date (91st day after adjournment) (Texas Constitution, Article III, Section 39)

 

 

  Table can be viewed in the Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual.

 

Notable Names in the Minutes: Texas Governors

A few months ago, we shared some notable names in the minutes—famous figures like Willie Nelson and Larry Hagman who have testified at legislative hearings. But sometimes the notable figures come from the executive branch of the Texas government:

  • Governor Ann Richards testified on March 3, 1991, before the House Insurance Committee in favor of an insurance bill (HB 2, 72R) that later passed. During a special session, she testified on July 16, 1991, before the Senate State Affairs Committee for a government reorganization bill (SB 7, 72nd 1st C.S.) that did not pass. Typescripts of her prepared testimonials are available for both bills—with a caveat noted on her testimony for SB 7 that "Governor Richards frequently deviates from prepared remarks."
  • Governor George W. Bush testified on the need for tort reform at the 74th Legislature's Senate Committee on Economic Development meeting on February 2, 1995. (Search within the document to find his name on witness lists for bills SB 25, SB 28, and SB 32, all of which passed.) We do not have his testimony transcripts.
  • Governor Rick Perry also "frequently departs from prepared remarks," according to the May 20, 2004, testimony published for his remarks to the House Select Committee on Public School Finance for the 78th Legislature.

Notable Names in the Minutes

Most of the people who testify at legislative hearings are "regular" people—active citizens or members of organizations who want to make their voices heard about proposed legislation. However, in our committee minutes scanning project, famous names sometimes jump out at us. Here are a few examples:

  • Musician Willie Nelson was the second individual to testify at the House Committee on Government Organization public hearing on April 4, 1989. Nelson spoke in favor of SB 489, 71R, a sunset bill that provided for the continuation of the Department of Agriculture. Noted in the minutes: "Chair recognized Willie Nelson of Austin, Texas, representing himself, as well as rabbits and horned toads." Congresswoman Barbara Jordan "of Austin, Texas, representing herself"—the Texas Legislature's own past Sen. Jordan—testified immediately following Nelson.
  • On March 11, 2009, the 81st Legislature's House Committee on Appropriations heard from Linda Gray and Larry Hagman, actors of Dallas fame, regarding film incentive funding.
  • Sometimes you have to know your Texas history—and possible name misspellings—to spot the notable figure mention. In the 39th Legislature (1925), the House Committee to Investigate Certain State Departments was charged with, among other items, investigating "the administration of highway affairs by the State Highway Commission." Former Rep. Sam Johnson, at the time a section foreman with the Highway Commission, testified before the committee, and he talks about his son, "Linden Johnson," who was driving tractors and helping Sam with payroll. "Lyndon" is the correct spelling of Rep. Johnson's son's name—as in future U.S. president Lyndon Baines Johnson! 

Resource Highlight: 78th Legislature Committee Minutes

Committee minutes from the 78th Legislature have been scanned and are available in the LRL's committee minutes database

 

House and Senate committee minutes are a valuable resource for understanding the work that goes into crafting legislation. Scanned minutes may also include other committee documentation, including agendas, exhibits, hearing notices, press releases, rules, testimony, transcripts, and vote sheets.

 

Of particular interest as the Legislature prepares for the next round of redistricting is the 78th's Redistricting committee records (with Texas Legislative Council plans, maps, and court documents). More court documents that are not in the minutes can be found here: https://lrl.texas.gov/legis/redistricting/redistrictDocs.cfm

 

Below are some other interesting items that can now be found in our database:

 

House

Corrections (H)  (with testimony 2/18/2003)

Licensing and Administrative Procedures (H)  (with a statement of intent for HB 2689 by Keffer, 4/3/2003)

 

Senate

Criminal Justice (S)  (transcript 1/4/2005, testimony 3/10/2004)

 

Joint

Long-Term Care, Legislative Oversight (J)  (testimony/exhibits both dates)
Nutrition and Health in Public Schools (J)  (testimony/exhibits both dates)
Public School Finance, Select (J)  (testimony/exhibits 9/10/2003, 3/4/2004)

 

The LRL database also allows users access to committee documents from House, Senate, and Joint committees, 63rd–77th Legislatures (1973–2001), as well as to search for minutes from the 78th–85th Legislatures that are available through Texas Legislature Online.

Constitutional Amendment Election, November 2019

On November 5, 2019, voters will have a chance to consider ten constitutional amendments proposed by the 86th Legislature. The proposed amendments cover a wide range of topics, including taxation, funding for various state agencies, a flood infrastructure fund, and more.

 

For background and analysis of the ballot propositions, see the House Research Organization's Constitutional Amendments Proposed for November 2019 Ballot, and the Texas Legislative Council's Analyses of Proposed Constitutional Amendments.

 

The Texas Constitution is one of the longest in the nation, at an estimated 86,936 words (The Book of the States, vol. 49). The Constitution is changed through amendments, which are proposed by the Texas Legislature and accepted or rejected by the voters. Since the current Texas Constitution was adopted in 1876, 498 amendments have been passed.  

 

Amendments Proposed for the November 5, 2019 ballot by the 86th Legislature

HJR 72 Prop. 1 The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.  
SJR 79 Prop. 2 The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.  
HJR 34 Prop. 3 The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.  
HJR 38 Prop. 4 The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.  
SJR 24 Prop. 5 The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing,and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.  
HJR 12 Prop. 6 The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.  
HJR 151 Prop. 7 The constitutional amendment allowing increase distributions to the available school fund.  
HJR 4 Prop. 8 The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.  
HJR 95 Prop. 9 The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metal depository located in this state.  
SJR 32 Prop. 10 The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.  

Sunset Commission Self-Evaluation Reports, 2020-2021 Cycle

Self-evaluation reports for the 2020-2021 review cycle are now available on the Sunset Advisory Commission's website.

 

To better understand how the Sunset process works in Texas, see this diagram. The Sunset Commission’s last report of the 2018-2019 cycle, Final Results of Sunset Reviews, was published in June 2019. A comprehensive listing of all of the entities reviewed by the Sunset Commission is available here.

 

 

Cover image by Flickr user Nathan Eaton Jr.

 

Legislative Intent in the Minutes

Many LRL researchers are interested in legislative intent—understanding why a bill becomes law, and who proposes ideas or reforms. However, "intent" is not always explicitly spelled out.

 

In more recent years, legislative intent often can be found in bill analyses within the bill files. It sometimes is recorded in the text of the bill or in the house or senate journals.

 

As we work on digitizing past committee minutes, we have also found some instances where legislative intent was added to the record in committee hearings.

Both of these intent documents are noted as reports in the committee minutes database records for their respective committees and sessions. You also can access them via the bills' records in the Legislative Archive System.

 

Conducting legislative research involves consulting a wide range of documents and close attention to detail. But checking everything is worth it—you never know which resource will provide the information you need!

Bills Effective, September 1, 2019

On September 1, 2019, 820 bills passed during the 86th Legislature will take effect. In addition, provisions of 25 bills passed during the 86th Legislature will become effective.

 

Sections of bills passed during the 85th Legislature84th Legislature, and 83rd Legislature also will take effect on September 1.

 

To keep up with new laws throughout the year, check the Library's list of bill effective dates.

Resource Highlight: Legislative Committee Minutes Online

The following legislative committee minutes in the LRL collection are scanned and available on our Committee minutes and related documents page:

 

House: 42nd – 77th

Senate: 27th – 77th

Interim: 38th – 77th

 

We most recently added interim minutes from the 62nd Legislature (1971-1972). As always, some committees are unique (see the interim committees on vegetable marketing and imported fire ant infestation), and others address major issues like school finance and coastal resources that the Legislature continues to work on today.

 

Minutes and other committee records from the 77th Legislature (2001) onward are available via Texas Legislature Online.

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