The following is an excerpt from The House Research Organization Focus Report released in February 2017. To view the report in full, including information on introducing legislation, committees, and the calendar system, go to http://www.hro.house.state.tx.us/pdf/focus/hwbill85.pdf. This portion of the report includes floor consideration through the veto process.
Once a bill is placed on a calendar, it may be debated and voted upon on the House floor. House rules govern the consideration of bills on the floor.
The House has three ways of voting: voice, division and recorded. For a voice vote, the chair asks separately for the “ayes” and “nays” and determines which side prevailed. If the chair (the speaker or a designate) is in doubt as to the result of the voice vote, a division vote may be used. For a division vote, the “ayes” and “nays” are registered on the voting machine but printed in the House Journal only if a record vote is ordered (Rule 1, sec. 7). On a question for which a record vote has not been ordered, members may record their votes and have them printed in the journal if they inform the journal clerk before the House adjourns or recesses to another day (Rule 5, sec. 52).
If requested by any member present, a record vote must be taken on any question (Rule 5, sec. 51(a)). A record vote automatically is taken on final passage of any bill or any joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment. Final passage means third reading, second reading if the three-reading requirement has been suspended or dispensed with, concurring with Senate amendments, or adopting a conference committee report (Constitution, Art. 3, sec. 12(b); Rule 5, sec. 51(c)). Record votes must be made available to the public on the Internet or any televised broadcast of the House proceedings in real time to the extent possible (Rule 5, sec. 51A).
A member may change a vote any time before the chair announces the result (Rule 5, sec. 53). Members absent for a vote may have a statement printed in the House Journal saying how they would have voted had they been present. Members also may have their reasons for voting a certain way published in the journal by submitting a statement to the journal clerk (Rule 5, sec. 49).
The speaker may vote on any bill or resolution but customarily does not vote (Rule 1, sec. 8). The speaker most often votes in cases when the vote would affect the outcome, such as to break or create a tie vote. A tie means that the motion fails (Rule 5, sec. 54). The speaker generally votes last.
The Constitution requires that a bill be read before the House on three separate days in order to be passed. First reading occurs when the bill caption is read and the speaker refers it to a committee (Rule 8, sec. 6). Second reading gives the House its first chance to debate and vote on the bill. A simple majority can amend a bill on second reading. On third reading, amendments require a two-thirds vote (Rule 11, sec. 5).
Bills passed on second reading usually are set for third reading on the next day’s supplemental calendar (Rule 6, sec. 16(a)(1)). Approval on second reading is referred to as “passage to engrossment” (Rule 8, sec. 17). A bill is “engrossed” when it finally passes on third reading. A bill that is finally approved by both houses is “enrolled.”
When the House comes to a House bill on the daily calendar, and a Senate bill on the same subject has been reported from a House committee, the Senate bill takes precedence. In such cases, the Senate bill will be considered in lieu of the House bill, which is laid on the table subject to call (Rule 6, sec. 10).
After the House approves a House bill, it is sent to the Senate. To be considered in the Senate, a House bill must have a Senate sponsor (vice versa for Senate legislation in the House). The chair of the Senate committee from which a House bill is reported determines, in consultation with the House author, the Senate sponsor. The House has a similar procedure for determining House sponsors of Senate bills. The chair may designate a primary sponsor, up to four joint sponsors, and an unlimited number of cosponsors (Rule 8, sec. 5(d); Senate Rule 11.14). Identical or companion bills often are introduced in both houses.
SR 3 by Hancock, adopted by the Senate on January 11, 2017, contains modifications to the Senate Rules for the 85th Legislature.
Committee of the Whole
The Senate sometimes sits as a committee of the whole Senate. The lieutenant governor, as president of the Senate, is a member of the committee of the whole and may debate and vote. When the Senate is not meeting in committee of the whole, the lieutenant governor may vote only to break ties. A senator, rather than the lieutenant governor, chairs the committee of the whole (Constitution, Art. 4, sec. 16; Senate Rules, Art. 13). The House also may meet as a committee of the whole, but rarely does (Rule 4, secs. 51-55).
Senate Order of Business
Each Senate day typically begins with the “morning call,” which includes petitions and memorials, introduction of bills and resolutions and their referral to committee, acceptance of messages, and consideration of motions, such as to concur with House amendments to Senate bills or to adopt conference committee reports. After the morning call, the president may recognize a senator for a motion to suspend the regular order of business to take up a bill on second reading. If the motion receives the necessary three-fifths vote, the bill is considered on second reading (Senate Rule 5.13). Amendments and approval on second reading require only majority approval.
After a bill on second reading passes to engrossment (to third reading), the Senate often suspends the constitutional requirement that a bill be read on three separate days. This motion must be approved by at least a four-fifths vote of the members present (Senate Rule, 7.18). If the motion to suspend the three-day reading requirement fails, three-fifths of the members present must suspend the regular order of business again on a subsequent legislative day for the bill to be considered on third reading.
After Passage by Both Houses
Senate amendments to a House bill must be printed and given to House members at least 24 hours before the House may act on them (Rule 13, sec. 5). The House may vote to concur with some amendments and not with others, unless the amendment is a single substitute amendment (Rule 13, sec. 3). A fiscal note must accompany Senate amendments for them to be considered (Rule 13, sec. 5(b)). The Texas Legislative Council must prepare an analysis of Senate amendments and distribute it to the members electronically or in printed form at least 12 hours before the House takes action (Rule 13, sec. 5(c)). The House also may not vote on Senate amendments unless a tax equity note prepared by the Legislative Budget Board (LBB), if required, has been distributed to the members (Rule 13, sec. 5(d)).
The speaker, with the primary author’s permission, may return to the Senate any House bill or resolution with Senate amendments that the speaker determines to be not germane to the measure, regardless of whether it is eligible for House consideration. The speaker must attach a statement explaining how the amendments returned to the Senate are not germane and enter the statement in the House Journal as soon as practicable (Rule 13, sec. 5A).
If the Senate has amended a House bill, the House may either concur with the amendments or request the appointment of a conference committee to reconcile differences between versions of a measure (Rule 13, sec. 3). If the Senate fails to approve appointment of a conference committee, either by voting down the motion or by taking no action, the bill dies.
Conference committees have five House members appointed by the speaker and five senators appointed by the lieutenant governor. Approval of a conference committee report requires the signatures of a majority of the committee members from each house (Rule 13, sec. 6).
Conference committees are prohibited from making two types of changes: changing or omitting parts of a bill that are the same in both House and Senate versions and adding language not found in either version of the bill (Rule 13, sec. 9(a)).
The House may lift the limits on a conference committee by adopting an “outside the bounds” resolution granting special permission. The resolution must specify in detail the exact language proposed, what rules would be suspended, the reasons for the suspension, and the conference committee action contemplated. It also must include a fiscal note. Such resolutions are privileged and may be brought up three hours after a copy has been distributed to each member. They require a majority vote for approval (Rule 13, sec. 9(f)).
Conference committee reports must be distributed to members at least 24 hours before consideration by the House. Conference committee reports may not be considered without a fiscal note, which must be distributed with the committee report on its printing (Rule 13, sec. 10(c)). If required, a tax equity note estimating the effect of the conference report must be submitted to the chief clerk and made available to each member before the House may vote on the conference report (Rule 13, sec. 10(d)). Other requirements apply for appropriations, taxation, redistricting, and recodification bills (Rule 13, sec. 9).
The House may accept or reject, but not amend, a conference committee report. If the House rejects a conference report and takes no further action, the bill dies. The House may elect, however, to recommit the conference report to the same conference committee for further consideration, request the appointment of a new conference committee, or give specific instructions to the House conferees (Rule 13, secs. 12, 13).
The Governor’s Role
After both houses have approved a bill or concurrent resolution in the same form, it is printed in final form (enrolled) and signed by the speaker and by the lieutenant governor in the presence of the members of their respective houses (Constitution, Art. 3, sec. 38). The chief clerk of the House (for Senate bills, the Senate enrolling clerk) prepares a final, official copy of the bill, which then goes to the governor.
The governor has 10 days (not counting Sundays) after receiving a bill to sign it or veto it and return it to the originating house with reasons for the veto. If neither action is taken within 10 days, the bill becomes law without the governor’s signature. The governor also may veto specific line items in an appropriations bill (Constitution, Art. 4, sec. 14).
For bills presented to the governor fewer than 10 days (not counting Sundays) before final (sine die) adjournment, or after adjournment, the governor has 20 days (counting Sundays) after the final day of the session to act.
Art. 4, sec. 14 of the Constitution specifies that the Legislature may override a veto if the originating house, which votes first, approves the override motion by a two-thirds record vote of the members present. The other house must override by a vote of “two-thirds of the members.”
Senate Rule 6.20 requires a vote of two-thirds of all members present to override the veto of a Senate bill (when the Senate votes first) and a vote of two-thirds of the members (21 votes) to override the veto of a House bill (when the Senate votes second). House rules make no specific provision for the vote required for veto overrides. The most recent ruling is two-thirds of the members (100 votes) are required to override a veto when the House votes second (on Senate bills).
The constitutional provision for overriding vetoes of line items of appropriations bills specifies a vote of two-thirds of the members present, for both houses. On the final day of a regular session, neither the House nor the Senate may vote to override a veto (Rule 8, sec. 13; Senate Rule 7.25). If the governor vetoes a bill after sine die adjournment of a session, the bill is dead because the Legislature has no opportunity to override the veto (Constitution, Art. 4, sec. 14).
Excerpts from this article were reprinted with permission from the House Research Organization, a nonpartisan department of the Texas House of Representatives that examines state issues and analyzes legislation being considered by the Texas Legislature. To view the report in full, go to http://www.hro.house.state.tx.us/pdf/focus/hwbill85.pdf