The 86th Texas Legislative Session: The Process and Implications for Texas Facilities with Air Permits
Posted: April 19th, 2019Authors: Kristin G.
“Check out Kristin’s updated article What Happened: Air Quality Bills to Watch in the 86th Legislative Session.
Every two years the Texas House and Senate members converge upon Austin for a 140-day legislative session (session). As part of the 86th Texas Legislative Session, 150 house members and 31 senate members (legislators) are considering over 7,000 bills from January 8 to May 27, 2019. This article describes how it all works and a subsequent article addresses the key air quality related bills to keep an eye on.
Texas’s Legislative Process (A High-Level Overview)
Legislators introduce bills, which are the vehicle to get a law enacted, repealed or amended in Texas. Legislators first introduce the bill in their own chamber after appropriate filing (with either the chief clerk of the house or secretary of state) and upon a passing vote, the bill is then heard in the other chamber. Should it be approved there, it proceeds to the governor for approval. In the first 60 days of the session, unrestricted introduction of bills is allowed and after that four fifths consent of voting members is required to introduce a bill.
With the sheer volume of bills introduced, the role of committees is paramount. Bill titles are first read in their respective chamber and then assigned a committee. While the House rules are more stringent than the Senate, committees are based on subject matter jurisdictions. As an example, environmental based bills are referred to the Environmental Regulation Committee in the House and the Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee in the Senate. Committee chairs decide if fiscal notes or other impact statements are required, as appropriate, and if so, the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) is involved.
Committees meet in a variety of ways including public hearing, formal meeting, and work sessions. Many of these meetings are open to the public and each chamber has their own requirements to post notice of these meetings. Committees can take ‘no action’ on a bill or issue a report for their chamber. A favorable report can suggest passage with or without amendments, or an alternative bill, whereas an unfavorable report typically kills the bill. Bills must pass committee prior to them being voted on in their respective chamber.
Opposite Chamber and Governor’s Role
After a bill has passed through the opposite chamber’s committee as well as chamber floor deliberation, the bill is sent back to the originating chamber. If the bill was not amended in the opposite chamber, or if it was amended and the originating chamber concurs with the changes, the bill is enrolled, signed by both presiding officers in the presence of their respective chambers, and sent to the governor. Any bill making an appropriation must be sent to the comptroller of public accounts for certification before going to the governor. If a bill was amended in the opposite chamber and the originating chamber does not concur with the changes, the originating chamber may request the appointment of a conference committee to resolve the differences between the house and senate versions of the bill.
Except in the case of a bill sent to the governor within 10 days of final adjournment, on receiving a bill, the governor has 10 days in which to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature. If the governor elects to veto the bill and the legislature is still in session, the bill is returned to the chamber in which it originated with an explanation of the governor’s objections. A two-thirds majority in each chamber is required to override the veto. If the governor neither vetoes nor signs the bill within the allotted time, the bill becomes law. If a bill is sent to the governor within 10 days of final adjournment, the governor has until 20 days after final adjournment to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature.
When do bills become effective? If a bill does not specify an effective date, the bill becomes effective on the 91st day after the date of final adjournment of the session in which it was enacted. However, a bill may specify a different effective date. In order for a bill to take effect before the 91st day after the date of final adjournment, the bill must receive a two-thirds vote of all the members elected to each chamber.
Environmental Bills Considered
To provide perspective, over 7,000 bills have been introduced in the first 60-day period of this session. Typically, a quarter to a third of bills are passed. On the environmental front, 250–300 bills are introduced including 50–60 air quality related bills. Now that we’ve covered basics of the legislative process, check out our article Air Quality Related Bills to Watch in the 86th Texas Legislative Session to learn about a few key air quality related bills being considered. Have questions? Reach out to Houston Office Director, Kristin Gordon, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281.937.7553 x301.