By the end of this section, you will be able to explain how a bill becomes law in Texas
How a Bill becomes Law in Texas
- Introduction– Only a member of Texas Legislature can introduce a bill to their respective chamber. For example only a Texas Senator can introduce a bill in the Senate. The bill will also be assigned a number according to the order it was introduced (i.e. first bill introduced in the House would be HB-1). The bill must be introduced separately in both chambers and if increasing taxes or raising funds are required from the bill, it must begin in the House. Bills must be introduced the first 60 days of the regular session, after that introduction of the bill requires a four-fifths from either chamber, unless the Governor has declared an emergency and the bill pertains to that emergency. Once the bill is introduced a caption (short description of the bill) is read aloud, this is also considered the first reading, where after the presiding officer assigns the bill to a committee.
- Committee Action– The Committee (Also called “Little Legislators”) will hear testimony for or against the bill, and decide to take no action or issue a report on the bill. If no action is ever taken the bill dies; the Committee’s Report will include a record of how everyone voted, the recommendations regarding the bill.
- Floor Action: Once a copy of the Committee’s Report is sent to all members of the Texas Legislature, the bill is read again by caption, then debated by Legislators. The members of that chamber then cast their votes, either through voice or a record voted, on the bill. The bill needs to obtain a majority vote in order for it to pass; once it passes it is sent to the other side of the chamber.
- Conference Committee: A Conference Committee is only necessary if there are two different versions of the same bill. Conference Committees are made up of 5 members from each chamber, and at least 3 out of the 5 members from each chamber must approve the bill in order for it to be considered passing- If this occurs the bill is signed by the presiding officers of each chamber and sent to the Governor.
- Governor’s Desk: The Texas Governor has 4 options when a bill reaches his or her desk: a) Sign it in to law; b) Not sign it, and if Congress is in session the bill becomes law within 10 days without his/her signature, or within 20 days if Congress is not in session; c) Veto the bill, which means it is denied, the veto can be overridden by a 2/3rds vote from the Legislature; or d) Line-item veto, which means the Governor eliminates certain parts of the bill without killing the entire document (this type of veto can only be used on state budget bill).
Note: Proposed Texas Constitutional Amendments occur in joint resolutions, instead of bills, and need a 2/3rds vote from both chambers- if approved the joint resolution is sent to the Texas Secretary of State Office where the people will decide the fate of the proposed amendment.