Why Doesn't The Texas Legislature Meet Every Year?
The Texas Legislature is in full swing. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.
Why do lawmakers meet for 140 days every two years? Why not annually and for longer? How can good discussion happen?
Conversation edited for clarity:
Senior Editor Ben Philpott: When the state voted on its Constitution – this was after the Civil War; we had Reconstruction, we had the carpetbaggers coming into Texas – the people of Texas were not interested in having government play a large, powerful role in their lives. So, they decided to make the Legislature a part-time Legislature, because they wanted regular folk to come in and run our state government and not give people a chance to come in, be entrenched, be here year-round and pass more and more bills year ’round.
Morning Edition Host Jennifer Stayton: Now, this listener had a follow-up question: Given the time constraints – especially compared to other state legislatures around the country – how can good discussion happen when the Legislature only meets every other year for 140 days?
BP: The Legislature, the actual session, is only 140 days. But the committees, the lawmakers themselves on those committees, they are meeting year-round for that entire two-year cycle of being elected to office. If something were to pop up, say, a real problem with transportation or a real problem with Health and Human Services, those committees will then call meetings and start to have discussions as whatever the news is is breaking. So, you do not start the legislative session with a blank slate. You have a buildup of meetings and material and committee reports that all inform what lawmakers are going to be doing during that 140-day session.