Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ch. 8 | the legislative branch

legislative functions: 
  • enact bills
  • adopt resolutions 
  • proposing constitutional amendments
  • adopting budgets for state government
  • levying taxes
  • redistricting
  • impeaching & removing executive & judicial officials 
election & terms of office
  • representatives elected for 2 years
  • senators elected for 4 years 
  • terms begin in January of odd-numbered years 
regular sessions: session of TX legislature that is constitutionally mandated
  • begins on second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years
  • lasts for a max. of 140 days 
  • Austin economy benefits bc legislators & lobbyists spend money for housing & entertainment
special sessions: legislative session called by governor 
  • limited to no more than 30 days
  • legislature may only consider matters placed before it by governor
  • costly to taxpayers
  • unpopular w legislators 
  • states divided into districts to provide equal representation 
redistricting: redrawing boundaries 
  • districts redrawn due to migration, births, & deaths 
Reynolds v. Sims: "the seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis" 
Kilgarlin v. Martin: "one person, one vote"
gerrymandering: drawing boundaries of districts to include/exclude certain groups to affect election
single-member district: area that elects only one representative to a policymaking body 
  • reduce campaign costs
  • increase probability that more African American & Latino candidates will be elected
multimember district: all voters participate in election of 2+ representatives to policymaking body 
Perez v. Perry: lawsuits consolidated into one case, claimed the redistricting plans discriminated against Latinos & African Americans 
Shelby County v. Holder: automatic pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act were no longer applicable 

TX legislatures must meet state constitutional qualifications:
  • U.S. citizen
  • qualified voter
  • one year residence in district to be represented preceding election
  • House: 2 years of TX residence preceding election; Senate: 5 years 
  • House: 21 years old; Senate: 26 years old 
gender & ethnic classifications
  • Anglo men dominate TX legislature 
  • general disrespect of female legislators 
  • African American & Latinos underrepresented 
political party affiliation
  • 2011: Republications achieved super-majority status in House of Representatives 
  • Central city residents usually elect African American & Latino Democrats 
  • Republican senators & representatives get support from rural & suburban Anglo voters 
education & occupation
  • most positions of leadership call for college credentials 
  • most legislators are attorneys, business owners, or managers
  • laborers have held almost no seats 
religious affiliation
  • legislators' religious beliefs may play role in forming public policy 
  • most numerous (in order): Baptists, Methodists, & Episcopalians 
legislative experience
  • terms of turnover (first-termers replacing experienced) or tenure (years served)
  • incumbent more likely to win an election 
  • TX does not have term limits for legislators 
TX legislators receive low pay, reasonable allowances, & generous retirement pension

pay & per diem allowance
  • Texas Ethics Commission sets per diem expense allowance
  • TX voters must approve all recommended salary increases 
expense allowances
  • at the beginning of each session, each chamber authorizes contingent expense allowances 
  • use money to cover cost of work-related travel, postage, office operations, staff salaries 
retirement pension
  • Texas State Employees Retirement Act of 1975: legislators contribute 8% of their state salaries to retirement fund 
  • many legislators do not serve long enough to qualify for a pension
president of Senate: the lieutenant governor:
  • not a member of the state Senate
  • presides over most sessions & plays leading role in legislative matters
  • first in line of succession in event of death/resignation/removal of governor 
  • powers granted by Senate rules 
  • Senate elects president pro tempore= presides when lieutenant governor is absent/disabled
presiding officer of the House of Representatives: Speaker of the House:
  • candidates must file w Texas Ethics Commission
presiding officers appoint committee chairs & determine the committees to which bills are referred

house committees
substantive committee: appointed by House Speaker
  • considers bills & resolutions related to subject identified by its name
  • may recommend passage of proposed legislation to appropriate calendars committee
procedural committee: consider bills & resolutions relating to procedural legislative matters
select committee: created by House Speaker or lieutenant governor; may consider legislation that crosses committee jurisdictional lines/may conduct special studies
interim committee: House/Senate committee appointed by Speaker or lieutenant governor to study important policy issue btwn regular sessions

senate committees
standing committee: appointed by lieutenant governor for purpose of considering proposed bills ^ resolutions before possible floor debate & voting 

legislative caucuses: legislators who try to maximize influence over issues of special interest
  • party caucuses: take policy positions on issues & promote unity among members
  • racial/ethnic caucuses: organize & form voting blocs to maximize their power 
  • ideological caucuses: conservative & liberal caucuses reflect opposing views on most issues 
  • bipartisan caucuses: framed around specific issues 
along w their powers, lawmakers have immunities from prosecution

making public policy 
  • most typical exercise of legislative power 
  • passing bills & adopting resolutions
simple resolution: requires action by one legislative chamber only 
concurrent resolution: adopted by House & Senate majorities then approved by governor 
joint resolution: majority vote in each house when used to ratify an amendment 
bill: proposed law or statute 
  • special bill: makes exception to general laws for specific individual/class/corporation
  • general bill: apply to all people/property
  • local bill: creates/affects single unity of local government 
constitutional amendment power
  • members of either chamber can introduce joint resolution to amend TX constitution 
  • approved by 2/3rds majority vote --> proposal is made 
administrative & investigative powers 
oversight: requires reports from state agencies concerning their operations
  • state auditor gives info to House & Senate about use of state funds by administrative agencies 
Sunset Advisory Commission: recommends continuation/merger/division/abolition of agencies 
senatorial courtesy: Senate rejects an appointment if appointee is declared "personally objectionable" by senator representing the district in which the appointee resiedes
impeachment & removal powers
  • House of Representatives has power to impeach all elected state judges & justices 
impeachment: brings charges leading to possible removal of certain officials 

  • can't be sued for slander 
  • not held accountable for statements made in speech or debate during legislative proceeding
  • may not be arrested while attending legislative session or traveling to/from meeting place 
each chamber adopts its own set of rules at the beginning of every regular session
parliamentarian: an expert on rules of order who sits at left of the presiding officer in House or Senate & provides advice on procedural questions

how a bill becomes a law

1. introduction in the House
  • companion bill: filed in one house but identical/similar to a bill filed in other chamber- speeds passage of bill bc committee consideration may take place simultaneously in both houses 
2. first reading (House) & referral to committee
3. house committee consideration & report 
  • bill analysis that summarizes important provisions of bill
4. second reading (House)
  • ghost voting: prohibited practice of one representative pressing the voting button of another member who is absent (unless given permission)
  • chubbing: representatives engage in lengthy debate for the purpose of using time & preventing a vote on a bill that they oppose 
5. third reading (House)
6. first reading (Senate)
7. Senate committee consideration & report 
  • two-thirds rule: procedural device to control bringing bills to the Senate floor for debate
8. second reading (Senate)
9. third reading (Senate)
10. return to the House
11. conference committee
  • committee composed of representatives & senators appointed to reach agreement on a disputed bill & recommend changes acceptable to both chambers 
12. conference committee report
13. enrollment
  • bill is stamped "enrolled" & report is presented to the House
14. signatures of chief clerk & speaker
15. signatures of secretary of Senate & lieutenant governor 
16. action by governor 
  • 3 options:
  1. sign bill 
  2. allow it to remain unsigned for 10 days- becomes law w/o chief executive's signature 
  3. w/in 10 day period, veto- return to House, unsigned, w reason for veto
influences w/in legislative environment:

the Texas Legislative Council
  • authorizes special research projects 
  • bill drafting
  • advice for legislators 
  • legislative research & writing 
  • publishing & document distribution
  • interim study committee research support
  • demograpic & statistical date compilation & analysis
  • computer mapping & analysis
the House Research Organization
  • independent of House leadership
  • produces reports on policy issues & House procedures 
  • prepares Daily Floor Report for each day the legislature is in session
  • analyze important bills to be considered
  • provide summary of bill content & presenting arguments for/against each bill 
  • publishes report on session's important bills & resolutions
the Senate Research Center
  • analyzes bills under consideration by Senate
  • conducts research on diverse issues
  • responds to requests from Senate members for research & info
the Center for Public Policy Priorities
  • independent nonprofit 
  • focus on problems of low/moderate income families
the Texas Public Policy Foundation 
  • research on issues supporting limited government, free enterprise, private property rights, etc.

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