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 8, 2013
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 6, 2012
15 seats (Senate)
150 seats (House)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
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.

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 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 8 through May 27. Thirty minutes after the regular session ended, Governor Rick Perry called legislators back for a special session starting that evening.[3]

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.[4]


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. [5]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.[6]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature did not meet in regular session.[7]

2009 (81st Legislature)

In 2009, the Legislature met in session from January 13 through June 1. [8]

Ethics and transparency

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.[9]

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.[10] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 672,640.[11]

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.[12] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 139,012.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]


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. [16]

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.[17] The report noted how representatives would race to the nearest empty seats to register votes for absent members on the legislature's automated voting machines. Each representative would vote for the nearest absent members, apparently regardless of party affiliation. This practice was in direct violation of a Rule of the Texas Legislature; however, no house member had ever been disciplined for the practice. The then-Speaker of the House, responsible for enforcement of the rule, issued a statement that discipline for violations of the rule is left to the individual house members.

Joint Committees

In the Texas state government, Joint Committees are comprised of members of both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives, and sometimes civilian members of executive agencies, commissions, and councils. Joint committees are created by the Lieutenant Governor Speaker of the House through special proclamation. Under normal circumstances, joint committees in Texas are created to operate in the interim of legislative sessions, and rarely during a session. All joint committees in Texas are classified as select committees, and do not carry over between legislative sessions.[18]


The Texas Legislature has 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 have 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

External links


  1. Texas Government Code 301.001
  2. Tex. Govt. Code 3.A.301.A001
  3. kten.com, "Texas Lawmakers To Tackle Redistricting In Special Session," May 29, 2013
  4. Star-Telegram, "As lawmakers return to Austin this week, a heap of work awaits," January 6, 2013
  5. 2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar, NCSL
  6. The Texas Tribune, "The Official Agenda for a New Session", May 30, 2011
  7. 2010 session dates for Texas legislature
  8. 2009 Legislative Sessions Calendar, NCSL
  9. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  10. Population in 2010 of the American states
  11. Population in 2000 of the American states
  12. Population in 2010 of the American states
  13. Population in 2000 of the American states
  14. 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. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
  15. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  16. USA Today, "State lawmakers pump up pensions in ways you can't," September 23, 2011
  17. CBS Channel 42 KeyeTV Investigates: One Lawmaker, Many Votes?, May 14, 2007, available at "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG6X-xtVask"; see also Wilson, Nanci, One Lawmaker, Many Votes?, May 14, 2007, available at "www.keyetv.com/topstories/local_story_134224129.html"
  18. This information about joint legislative committees in Texas is from an email dated March 21, 2011 from the Applications Administrator of the Texas Legislature's website to Jimmy Ardis, a staff writer for Ballotpedia.