Our discussion of the legislative branch focuses on the institutional fundamentals, including its organization, and the background characteristics and qualifications of its members. A focus on legislators is key to understanding how the Legislature - and Texas society - has changed over time. Examining the background characteristics of state legislators also provides an indirect glimpse of which interests are more likely to enjoy representation in government.
We then examine more closely the process of redistricting, the constitutionally mandated redrawing of legislative district lines every ten years (or less) mandated by the U.S. and Texas constitutions. This is required because districts must contain roughly the same number of people, but population shifts can throw off this tenuous balance. The process of redistricting is highly complex, subjective, and consequently political. The result of redistricting can profoundly shape the types of people and interests that are represented in legislative bodies.
Next we take a close look at two critical features of the Legislature: the presiding officers in each of the two legislative chambers and the committee system. The legislative leadership and the committee system have a profound effect on the movement of specific legislative proposals through the rather tortuous legislative process.
We also examine the characteristics of the most prominent function of such lawmaking bodies, the process through which bills are evaluated and laws created. We conclude by examining reform proposals and the various means through which citizens might participate in the activities of the legislature.