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Legislative Update - February 10, 2017
Like a marathon race with mile markers, the 140 days of a Texas legislative session has similar milestones. One of the big early session markers is the appointment of committees, which the Speaker announced for the Texas House yesterday, Feb. 9th.
Today, Friday, February 10, 2017, marks the 32nd day of the 85th Legislature with 108 days left to go. The Texas Constitution reserves the first 60 days for bill filing, and the final 80 days for floor action. Straddling the bill filing deadline on the 60th day (March 10, 2017) is the period when committees do the bulk of their work. The public can expect news stories and action alerts to be focused on committee work starting this week through the beginning of April.
Appointing committees in the Senate is structurally easier than the House. The Senate has only 31 members, while the Speaker has to contend with the ambitions of 149 other members. The Senate has less turnover in its membership between sessions, since they are elected every four years, whereas the House has more turnover, since they are elected every two years. The Lieutenant Governor is a statewide elected official, whereas the Speaker is elected by the members of the House.
In a biennial legislature that runs for only 140 days, time is critical. Like a rush hour commute, having a piece of legislation leave early improves its chances of not getting caught in a traffic jam with other bills late in the legislative session.
The Senate has the advantage of being able to get off to a quicker start. The Lieutenant Governor named committees on Day 9, which was January 18, and Senate Finance and State Affairs have been holding hearings on the budget and the Governor’s emergency items throughout January and February.
In contract, House committees are sometimes not named until after Valentine’s Day. With House committees appointed before Valentine’s Day this session, the House is positioned to have an extra week or two in which committees can hear more legislation before the looming deadlines render legislation effectively dead.