For anyone who is new to the legislative process, or who could use a refresher, the basic process is laid out here.
A proposal can die at any of the bulleted steps below, so it is
important to remember that just because a proposal is being discussed,
there is no guarantee that it will become law. If you
support a piece of legislation, let your elected representatives know - it may need your help to get all the way
through the process.
- Finding a bill sponsor and getting legislation drafted into bill
form are the first steps. Some ideas that you hear about remain in the
idea stage and are never introduced as actual bills.
- Any legislator can file a bill, and thousands of bills are filed
between November and the filing deadline in March (this session's filing deadline is March 10). A substantial
percentage of those bills will never move any farther in the process.
- In both the House and Senate, committee chairs determine whether a bill will be scheduled for a committee hearing. A substantial number of bills die at this stage for lack of a hearing.
- If there is a hearing, the legislation is explained by the
legislator who filed it and testified on by witnesses, both for and
against. It can be amended by the committee. If the bill is then
approved by the committee, its next step depends on whether it is a
House or Senate bill.
- In the House, a bill that is voted out of its subject matter
committee (e.g., the House Public Education Committee) then moves to the
Calendars Committee. It may stop there. But if it has enough support
within the Calendars Committee, it will be scheduled for action on the
- A noncontroversial House bill may be assigned to the “Consent
Calendar” which typically moves quickly with little debate; other bills
are scheduled for the normal calendar and may be debated and amended on
the floor. Eventually, having been scheduled for House consideration, it
will be voted on by the full House.
- In the Senate, there is no equivalent of the House’s Calendars
Committee. If a bill passes out of committee, the Senate author can
place it on the “Intent Calendar,” which signals that he or she would
like to bring it up for consideration on the Senate floor. Under Senate
rules, a bill must have a five-ninths majority vote (at least an 18-13
vote, if all 31 senators are present) in order to be heard on the floor.
Thus, a controversial bill can be prevented from consideration by the
full Senate if a voting bloc of 14 senators refuses to vote to bring it
up. A bill that survives that vote is then subject to a majority vote
after debate and potential amendments on the Senate floor.
- A bill that passes the first chamber then moves to the other side of
the building and begins the process again. For example, a House bill
that passed the House will be assigned to a Senate committee and that
chair will determine whether the bill receives a hearing.
- If a House bill makes it through both the House and the Senate but
is amended in the Senate, or vice versa, it must then return to the
first chamber and legislators will vote on whether to accept the changes
or to appoint a conference committee. If there were no amendments, or
if the originating chamber accepts the amendments, the bill moves to the
- If a conference committee is appointed, five senators and five House
members will try to develop a final, agreed-upon version of the bill. If
they are able to approve a final version, it must then be voted up or
down (no opportunity for amendments) by both the House and Senate.
- A bill that has finally passed both the House and Senate will be
considered by the governor. The governor can sign the bill into law,
veto the bill, or allow the bill to become law (after a designated
period of time) without his signature.
- If a bill proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution, it must
also be voted on by Texas voters after the governor's approval.
Last session, over 7,000 bills and substantive resolutions were
filed, but only around 1,000 of them eventually became law. Twenty-one bills were vetoed.
TCTA is heavily involved in every step of this process to
encourage good bills and fight bad ones. We may ask for your help at
some point and, as always, we encourage you to reach out to your House
and Senate members to let them know your opinions on key legislation.