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Texas Politics - The Legislative Branch
Geanie Morrison on how a bill becomes law Geanie Morrison on how a bill becomes law
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Dan Branch talks about how to build a consensus on issues. Dan Branch talks about how to build a consensus on issues.
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How a bill becomes a law ... or not How a bill becomes a law ... or not
conference committee
8.    How a Bill Becomes a Law

Passing legislation in Texas is a long and difficult process, perhaps appropriate given the importance and seriousness of creating new laws. Despite the actual complexity and detail involved in passing legislation, the basic process is quite easily grasped after examining the process in detail. In a 2004 Texas Politics interview, State Representative Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) described the process of a bill becoming law, from the perspective of a legislator.

The same basic steps are repeated in both houses of the Legislature. Still, there are important differences in the details of each house's rules and structure that impact that chamber's handling of a bill. These are discussed below, along with the conference committee process and brief coverage of the Governor's options in dealing with bills sent to him by the Legislature.

8.1    Introduction and Referral

A bill must be passed by both houses of the Legislature in order to be sent to the Governor for approval or acceptance as a law. It can be introduced in either chamber first, or both simultaneously to speed the process, except that all bills for raising revenue must start in the House.

A bill can be introduced only by a member of the Legislature. This member is known as the sponsor of the bill. But the sponsor typically is not the originator of the proposed legislation.

More commonly, bills begin as twinkles in the eyes of organized interest groups, private corporations, lobbying organizations, and law firms. These organizations offer considerable expertise in the specific subject areas and in the formal requirements (style, organization and content) of proposed legislation. Sometimes they even write the full text that is submitted to the chief clerk.

The shortness of the legislative session has led to the practice of pre-filing bills before the legislative session begins. On the first business day in the week following the November general elections current members and those just elected but not yet seated may begin pre-filing bills. After the 2010 election, lawmakers pre-filed 394 bills. This represents a significant increase from previous years such as the 134 filed after the 2004 election.

When a bill is introduced it is assigned a number that begins with HB (House Bill) if introduced in the House and SB (Senate Bill) if introduced in the Senate.

The Texas Constitution requires three readings of a bill on the floor of each house. The first reading occurs when the bill is introduced. Here the reading clerk in the House or the Secretary of the Senate reads aloud the bill's caption, a short summary, and announces the committee to which the Speaker (or the Lieutenant Governor in the Senate) has assigned responsibility for working on the bill.

Because the legislative process is time-consuming and the legislative session is short, it is common for identical companion bills to be introduced in both houses at once.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 116
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