Jan. Recap and How A Bill Becomes A Law
The Texas Legislature convened on Jan. 10. Effective Jan. 31, lawmakers have filed 1,996 House bills and 789 Senate bills.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appointed Senate Committees on Jan. 23. House Speaker Dade Phelan has not yet made House Committee appointments. As we await further action, how about a general refresher course on How A Bill Becomes a Law:
Once a bill is introduced by a legislator, a caption, or a short description, of the bill is read aloud; this reading is considered the first reading of the bill. Once read, the presiding officer assigns the bill to a committee.
The committee will hear testimony for or against the bill and then decide to take no action or issue a report on the bill. If no action is ever taken, the bill dies.
The committee issues a report which includes how everyone voted and recommendations for the bill. Bills that pass out of committee are sent to the chamber’s calendars committee in the House. That committee then adds the bill to the House agenda for debate. If the bill is never scheduled by the calendars committee, it dies in the calendars committee.
In the Senate, the lieutenant governor decides whether a bill is considered by the full Senate.
If the bill is scheduled, it is read a second and third time and debated by lawmakers. The legislators of that chamber cast their votes, either through voice or a record vote. In the House, record votes are tallied by an electronic vote board controlled by buttons on each member’s desk. In the Senate, record votes are taken by calling the roll of the members.
Generally speaking, the bill needs to obtain a majority vote in order for it to pass. Once the bill passes in one chamber, it is sent to the other chamber.
If there are two different versions of the same bill, a conference committee made up of five members from each chamber is convened. At least three out of the five members must approve the bill in order for it to be considered for passage. If three approve, the conference committee report version of the bill is considered by each chamber without amendment and sent to the governor.
Upon receiving a bill, the governor has 10 days in which to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature. If the governor vetoes the bill and the legislature is still in session, the bill is returned to the chamber in which it originated with an explanation of the governor’s objections. A two-thirds majority in each chamber is required to override the veto. If the governor neither vetoes nor signs the bill within 10 days, the bill becomes a law. If a bill is sent to the governor within 10 days of final adjournment, the governor has until 20 days after final adjournment to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature.
For a more detailed version of this process, click here.
Our thanks to CJCAT Senior General Counsel Jim Allison for consulting on this article.