Behind the Scenes
How the Legislative
Process Works Is
Important to Know
The Texas legislative process consists of biennial sessions that last 140 days. With such a brief time to formulate the state budget, new laws, and
changes to existing laws, legislators have
little time to waste while mapping the
future of our state.
The following is a brief primer on the
Texas legislative process.
Division of Power
In Texas, as with the federal government, the government is divided
into three branches: executive, judicial,
and legislative. The governor heads the
executive branch. The judicial branch
includes the Texas Supreme Court and
all state courts. The legislative branch
consists of the Texas House and the
What does the governor do? The governor is the chief executive and is elected
every four years. He may recommend
policies that legislators introduce as bills.
The governor also appoints the secretary
of state, the commissioner of education,
and many members of boards and commissions that oversee the heads of state
agencies and departments.
The governor’s constitutional job description includes signing or vetoing bills
and appointing qualified Texans to state
offices that carry out the laws and direct
Who leads the House? On the first day
of each regular session, the 150 members
of the Texas House of Representatives
choose one of their members as speaker
of the House.
Whoever sits in the speaker’s chair
will be presiding officer of the House
and will keep order, recognize members
to speak during debate, and rule on
procedural matters. Because he or she is
a member of the House, the speaker may
vote at any time or withhold action to
cast the deciding vote in a tie.
The speaker appoints committees,
committee chairs, and vice-chairs. Representatives, who serve two-year terms,
may work on up to three committees.
And in the Senate? The lieutenant
governor is the presiding officer of the
Senate and is chosen by voters, not the
31 senators. The lieutenant governor is
the second-highest-ranking officer of the
executive branch and, like senators and
the governor, is chosen for a four-year
term. The lieutenant governor cannot
vote on legislation unless there is a tie or
when the Senate convenes as a committee of the whole.
The first thing the speaker and the
lieutenant governor ask the two houses
to do is decide on the rules they will follow during the session. The Texas Constitution provides some legislative procedures, but both chambers can adopt
additional rules if they are approved by a
majority vote of the members.
After rules have been adopted, the
Legislature starts to consider bills, which
are proposals to change state law by
adding a new law or amending a current
one. Ideas for bills come to representatives and senators from many sources:
constituents, interim committees, and as-