Texas State Legislature

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Texas State Legislature

Seal of Texas.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 13, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   David Dewhurst (R)
House Speaker:  Joe Straus (R)
Members:  31 (Senate), 150 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art 3, Texas Constitution
Salary:   $7,200/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
15 seats (Senate)
150 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
Redistricting:  Texas Legislature has control
The Texas Legislature is the state legislature of Texas. The legislature meets at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. In Texas, the Legislature is considered the most powerful branch of state government because of its aggressive use of the power of the purse to control and direct the activities of state government.

It is composed of the upper chamber, the Texas State Senate, and the lower chamber, the Texas House of Representatives.

Texas entered the Union in 1845. The First Legislature met from February 16 to May 13, 1846.

As of May 2015, Texas is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: Texas House of Representatives, Texas State Senate, Texas Governor

Structure and operations

Like most state legislatures, it is a bicameral institution, consisting of a lower house, the Texas House of Representatives, and the upper house, the Texas Senate. The legislature meets in regular session on the second Tuesday in January of each odd-numbered year.[1] The Texas Constitution limits the regular session to 140 calendar days. The lieutenant governor, elected statewide separate from the Governor, presides over the Senate, while the speaker of the house is elected from that body by its members. Both have wide latitude in choosing committee membership in their respective houses and have a large impact on lawmaking in the state.

Only the governor may call the Legislature into special sessions (the legislature may not call itself into session, as is the case in some other states), and the governor may call as many sessions as he wishes. For example, Governor Rick Perry called three consecutive sessions in 2003 to address congressional redistricting. The Texas Constitution limits the duration of each special session to 30 days; lawmakers may consider only those issues designated by the Governor in his "call," or proclamation convening the special session (though other issues may be added by the Governor during a session).

Both houses of the Legislature are officially organized on a bipartisan basis, with members of both parties serving in leadership positions such as committee chairmanships. Currently (2007), a majority of the members of each chamber are members of the Republican Party.


Article III of the Texas Constitution establishes when the Legislature is to be in session. Section 5 of Article III states that the Legislature shall meet every two years at times to be established by law. Current law establishes the start of session to be noon on the second Tuesday in January of all odd numbered years.[2] Section 5 goes on to say that the Legislature can also be convened by the Governor of Texas. Sessions are limited to 140 days.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature will be in session from January 13 through June 1.

Major issues

The number one issue on the agenda for the Texas State Legislature will likely be transportation funding, especially funding of the Texas Department of Transportation. A bill meant to help alleviate funding issues within the agency died in the last legislative session, leaving the issue to the 2015 legislative session. Officials from the agency have told lawmakers they need an additional $4 billion a year to maintain the state's current traffic levels.[3]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature will not hold a regular session.


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 8 to May 27. Thirty minutes after the regular session ended, Governor Rick Perry called legislators back for a special session starting that evening.[4]

Major issues

Along with the necessity of creating a new budget, some of the biggest issues included medicaid and school funding, a water shortage, and reforming the school finance system.[5]

Wallace Hall impeachment

See also: Wallace Hall impeachment trial

After he was appointed in 2011, University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall began looking into what he believed to be clout scandals within the University of Texas system. Hall investigated the university's forgivable-loans program and admissions policies and preferential treatment to politically-connected individuals.[6] Hall, as an individual citizen, filed FOIA requests with the University system after his inquiries via his role as a Regent were rebuffed.[7] According to his accusers, Hall filed requests of more than 800,000 pages, which some Texas administrators called an unnecessary burden.[8][9] However, a letter from University chancellor Francisco Cigarroa in February 2014 said that Hall likely requested fewer than 100,000 pages.[10][11] In addition, Cigarroa wrote: "During testimony before the Select Committee, some early witnesses implied that the U.T. System has not protected the privacy rights of students, staff, and patients. This is simply not true."[12]

An effort was begun in June 2013 by members of the Texas State House to try and impeach Hall from his position as Regent. Some legislators are justifying the impeachment on the grounds that Hall did not disclose several lawsuits that he was involved in when he originally completed his Regent background check. Hall updated Governor Rick Perry's office in April 2013 with the full list.[13][14] The lack of lawsuit disclosure by Hall is not unique -- more than 9,000 lawsuits were not disclosed by other appointed Texas officials.[15] No unelected official in Texas has ever been successfully impeached or removed from office.[16] Perry's spokesperson said the investigations send a "chilling message" to gubernatorial appointees.[17] He added that the investigation was "extraordinary political theater."[18] Texas state legislators have never previously tried to remove an appointed official. Only two elected officials in the history of Texas have ever been successfully impeached.[19] Texas State House Speaker Joe Straus authorized the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations to investigate the possibility of drafting articles of impeachment.[20]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was not in regular session.

2011 (82nd Legislature)

See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

Regular session

In 2011, the Legislature was in session from January 11 through May 30.[21]Major themes throughout the session were fixing a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall, state and congressional redistricting, and immigration reform. While redistricting maps were passed for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas State Senate, and the State Board of Education, the legislature failed to pass a congressional map within the regular session.

Special session

The 82nd Legislative Session officially ended Monday May 30, 2011. Due to a lack of progress on key legislative items, Governor Rick Perry called a special session which began first thing Tuesday May 31, 2011. Of primary concern in the special session is passing supporting legislation needed to balance the budget. Even though a budget bill passed both the House and Senate during the regular session, a last-minute filibuster by Democratic Senator Wendy Davis halted the passing of an essential school finance bill that was required to balance the budget. The Texas Constitution requires a balanced budget, so a special session was called. Balancing the budget is not the only item on the special session agenda. Medicaid reform, immigration, and congressional redistricting are amongst the issues likely to be addressed.[22]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature did not meet in regular session.[23]

2009 (81st Legislature)

In 2009, the Legislature met in session from January 13 through June 1.[24]

Role in state budget

See also: Texas state budget and finances
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The state operates on a biennial budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[25][26]

  1. Budget instructions are sent to state agencies beginning in March.
  2. Agencies submit their budget requests to the governor from July through September.
  3. Agency and public hearings are held from July through September.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature on the 30th day of the regular session.
  5. The legislature typically adopts a budget in May. A simple majority is required to pass a budget. The fiscal year begins in September.

Texas is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[26]

The legislature is legally required to adopt a balanced budget. Similarly, the governor must sign a balanced budget into law.[26]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Texas was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[27]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[28] According to the report, Texas received a grade of A- and a numerical score of 91, indicating that Texas was "leading" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[28]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Texas was given a grade of A in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[29]

Qualification for service

The Texas Constitution sets the qualifications for election to each house as follows:

  • A senator must be at least 26 years of age, a citizen of Texas five years prior to election and a resident of the district from which elected one year prior to election. Each senator serves a four-year term and one-half of the Senate membership is elected every two years in even-numbered years, with the exception that all 31 Senate seats are up for election for the first legislature following the decennial census in order to reflect the newly redrawn districts. After the initial election, the Senate is divided by lot into two classes, with one class having a re-election after two years and the other having a re-election after four years.
  • A representative must be at least 21 years of age, a citizen of Texas for two years prior to election and a resident of the district from which elected one year prior to election. They are elected for two-year terms, running for re-election in even-numbered years.

Neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate has term limits.

Texas State Senate

State legislatures where heading into the November 2, 2010 elections
the Republican Party is in the majority in both chambers
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See also: Texas State Senate

The current make-up of the Texas Legislature is as follows: There are 31 Senators in the Texas State Senate. Each member represents an average of 811,147 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[30] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 672,640.[31]

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 11
     Republican Party 20
Total 31

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Texas State Senate from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Texas State Senate.PNG

Texas House of Representatives

See also: Texas House of Representatives

There are 150 representatives in the Texas House of Representatives. Each member represents an average of 167,637 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[32] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 139,012.[33]

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 52
     Republican Party 98
Total 150

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Texas State House from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Texas State House.PNG


See also: Redistricting in Texas

Legislative redistricting in Texas is handled by the Legislature. Maps are passed as regular legislature, but if the Legislature fails, a constitutionally-prescribed Legislative Redistricting Board -- made up of the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, land commissioner, comptroller, and Attorney General -- is formed to finish the job. The board must meet within 90 days of the Legislature's failure, and pass a plan within 60 days of the first meeting. Texas is a Voting Rights Act state, meaning it must submit its maps to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

2010 census

Texas received its local census data on February 17, 2011. The state grew 20.6%, with Hispanics making up at least 2/3 of that growth. As far as the large cities, Houston grew by 7.5 percent, San Antonio grew by 16.0 percent, Dallas grew by 0.8 percent, Austin grew by 20.4 percent, and Fort Worth grew by 38.6 percent. However, Harris County -- of which Houston is the seat -- grew by 20%, suggesting suburban growth.[34]

In 2012, Texas was holding elections under interim maps drawn by a federal court after the Legislature's passed maps were thrown out by a panel of three federal judges on Voting Rights Act grounds. The panel drew up its own maps, but the federal court struck down those as well, substituting its own so that the elections could proceed.



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Texas Legislature are paid $7,200/year. Legislators receive $150/day per diem which is set by the Ethics Commission.[35]


When calculating a legislators pension, their normal salary is artificially inflated to $125,000. This goes back to 1981, when lawmakers linked their salaries to those of state judges. Since then, they raised judges' salaries while removing the caps on their own pensions, pushing the maximum benefit up to 100% of a judge's salary.

In 2011, this resulted in an average state employee pension of $17,526 annually. The maximum pension a legislator can earn is $125,000, of which Rep. Tom Craddick (R) will be the first to qualify for when he retires. [36]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Texas legislators assume office at the beginning of the legislative session (January). Special elections will be different and subject to case-by-case basis.

Amending the constitution

The Texas legislature has the authority to propose amendments to the Texas Constitution. Proposed amendments must be approved in a joint resolution of both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. The joint resolution can originate in either the House or the Senate.

The resolution must be adopted by a vote of at least two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Senate.

Amendments may be proposed in either regular or special sessions.

Multiple voting controversy

On May 14, 2007, CBS Channel 42's KeyeTV Investigates reported on multiple voting by Texas state representatives present during a voting session.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag


The Texas Legislature had one joint committee:



Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Texas
Partisan breakdown of the Texas legislature from 1992-2013

Texas Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Texas State Senate for five years while the Republicans were the majority for 17 years. Texas was under Republican trifectas for the final 11 years of the study.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Texas House: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Texas State House of Representatives for the first 11 years while the Republicans were the majority for the last 11 years. Texas was under Republican trifectas for the final 11 years of the study.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Texas, the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Texas state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

Texas was one of eight states to demonstrate a dramatic partisan shift in the 22 years studied. A dramatic shift was defined by a movement of 40 percent or more toward one party over the course of the study period. Texas started out with Democratic trifectas but shifted to Republican trifectas by the end of the study.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Texas state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Prior to Republican trifectas, which started in 2003, the SQLI rating for Texas stayed consistently in the 30s, except for its lowest ranking of 40 in 1994 during a Democratic trifecta. Within a few years of the Republican trifectas that ranking moved up, and Texas finished 11th, its highest ranking, in 2012.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 36.67
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 18.00
  • SQLI average with divided government: 33.63
Chart displaying the partisanship of Texas government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

See also

External links


  1. Texas Government Code 301.001
  2. Texas State Legislature, "Tex. Govt. Code 3.A.301.A001," accessed August 2, 2014
  3. Aman Batheja, Texas Tribune, "Transportation Funding Likely to Be Big Issue in 2015" accessed January 29, 2015
  4. kten.com, "Texas Lawmakers To Tackle Redistricting In Special Session," May 29, 2013
  5. Star-Telegram, "As lawmakers return to Austin this week, a heap of work awaits," January 6, 2013
  6. American Spectator, "Transparency for Thee," October 25, 2013
  7. Daily Texas Online, "Facing impeachment, Regent Wallace Hall defends actions in debate with Sen. Kirk Watson," September 28, 2013
  8. Daily Texas Online, "Former UT System vice chancellor alleges Regent Wallace Hall’s ‘clear intent to get rid of Bill Powers’," October 24, 2013
  9. Dallas Morning News, "UT regent sought 800,000 documents, official says in impeachment hearing," October 22, 2013
  10. Watchdog, "‘Witch hunt’ fallout: Speaker calls for narrower public records law," February 5, 2014
  11. Texas Tribune, "UT System Responds to Transparency Committee Directives," February 3, 2014
  12. Texas Tribune, "Cigarroa letter to the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations," February 1, 2014
  13. Texas Tribune, "UT Regent Wallace Hall Updates Lawsuit Disclosures," April 30, 2013
  14. Real Clear Policy, "The Campaign Against Wallace Hall," August 15, 2013
  15. Watchdog.org, "Case against UT regent Wallace Hall is a sham — here’s proof," September 6, 2013
  16. News-Journal, "University of Texas regent not worried by impeachment inquiry," September 9, 2013
  17. Texas Tribune, "Transparency Committee to Mull Impeachment of UT Regent," June 25, 2013
  18. Texas Tribune, "Perry Blasts Impeachment Probe of Wallace Hall," October 30, 2013
  19. Texas Public Radio, "UT Regent Wallace Hall Will Testify In Impeachment Hearing," November 13, 2013
  20. Texas State House Committees, "Transparency in State Agency Operations Committee Members," accessed October 31, 2013
  21. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
  22. The Texas Tribune, "The Official Agenda for a New Session," May 30, 2011
  23. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 session dates for Texas legislature," December 8, 2010
  24. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2009 Legislative Sessions Calendar," March 11, 2010
  25. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  27. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  28. 28.0 28.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  29. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  30. census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  31. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  32. census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  33. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  34. U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Texas' 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," February 17, 2011
  35. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  36. USA Today, "State lawmakers pump up pensions in ways you can't," September 23, 2011