The Texas Legislature

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The legislature of the state of Texas is composed of two bodies; the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate has 31 members while the house of Representatives is made up of 150 members. The Legislature is the most powerful branch of the state government because it controls the budget, which is appropriation and gives guidelines to the state government.

The Texas constitution has set 26 years as the minimal age to contest for the Senate seat. The candidate should have been a resident of Texas for five years prior the election. They should have been residents of the districts they are seeking election for one year. The term of each Senator is four years. After the election the Senate is divided into two groups, one serving for four years and the other for two years before facing re-election.

A representative should have attained the minimum age of 21 years with two years residency in Texas and one year in the district they are seeking the seat. Representatives are elected for a two year term and they face re-election on even numbered years. According to the boundaries drawn after the 1990 census, each state Senator is a representative of a district of more than 500,000 citizens while that of a representative has 113,000 people (Quarles &Cordon 89).

The Legislature is the state law making body. Its core duty is to enact laws that provide for the health, education, welfare, environment and the general status of Texans. Another function of this body is to come up with amendments to the state constitution which then undergoes a public referendum. In pursuit of the constitution, the Legislature convenes in a regular session every two years. By an edict, the assembly convenes on the second Tuesday in January of every even- numbered year and this session last for 140 days. The constitution also mandates the Governor to call other sessions when deemed necessary. Such sessions do not last more than 30 days and the house restricts itself to issues specified by the Governor.

During the beginning of each new Legislature, the constitution requires the House of Representatives to select one of its members to be the speaker of the House. The duties of the Speaker include: maintaining order during House debates, identifying members who wish to speak and gives rulings concerning matters of procedure. The constitution also demands the Speaker to append signatures on all bills and joint resolutions passed by the house (Quarles &Cordon 89). The other roles of the Speaker are subject to the members of the House and are adopted by a majority vote at the commencement of each regular session of the House. The members also delegate the Speaker with the powers to appoint members to each standing committee in accordance with the rules of seniority, and to give direction on the chair and vice-chair of each committee. The rule also mandates the Speaker to appoint conference committees, and direct committees to deliberate on interim studies when the House is in recess (Maxwell et al 67).

The constitution gives the provision that the Lieutenant Governor shall be the Senate president and preside over its functions. Lieutenant Governor is elected by the voters of the state of Texas and is the second highest ranking officer of the Executive arm of Government after the Governor. The Senate confers the Lieutenant Governor with authority to make appointments to committees and chairs to those committees and submit legislation to committees. Other than maintaining order during debate and recognizing members wishing to speak, the Lieutenant Governor has authority to determine the priority of bills to be discussed on the floor. He is also allowed to vote incase of a tie in a question.

The Lieutenant Governor in Texas is extra ordinary in that he is a member of both the Executive and the Legislature. Like other states, the Lieutenant Governor takes the authority and duty of the Governor during the latter’s absentia. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas is elected independently from the Governor and therein is the possibility that they may be of different parties (Maxwell et al 67). The Senate rules, which are crafted at the beginning of each new session confers the Lieutenant Governor with wide ranging powers in determining the policies of the state and influencing legislation that may eventually  be enacted by the Senate.

The Lieutenant Governor gets other powers and responsibilities from decree. By decree, he is a member of the: Legislative Budget Board, the Legislative Council, the Legislative Audit Committee and the Legislative Education Board. He is nominated as the chair of Legislative Budget Board and Legislative Council, which have significant say in state programs, policy and budget. He is also a member of two Executive Branch Boards created by edict, the Cash Management Committee and the Bond Review Board (Maxwell et al 67).

Introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives requires a member to forward the required copies to the Chief Clerk of the House, who in turn numbers them according to the order of reception. For the first 60 days of session, the members are allowed to submit unrestricted number of bills. After that period, bills will only be allowed if it is related to a matter as determined by the Governor to be an emergency and it requires at least four-fifths of Senate majority.

In the Senate, the member submits the necessary number of copies to the Secretary of the Senate who then proceeds to number them according to the order of reception. The deadline and procedure after the 60 days is same to that of the House of Representatives. Due to the size of the Legislature and the work load, fruitful discussions are not possible therefore duties are delegated to committees. The committee deliberates on a bill and advises on the appropriate action to be taken.

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