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The Texas Legislature: Organization, Structure, & Legislative Process

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The Texas Legislature: Organization, Structure, & Legislative Process

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  1. 0 The Texas Legislature:Organization, Structure, & Legislative Process

  2. FOCUS • The Texas legislature’s function and how it is organized? • What is the Texas legislature’s Structure? • What is the Texas legislative process? • Learning who are the most important actors in the Texas Legislature.

  3. LEARNING OBJECTIVES • To understand the Texas legislature’s function and how it is organized. • To know the formal qualifications for holding office in the Texas legislature. • To know the number of members in each chamber (Senate and House of Representatives). • To understand geographic single-member districts. • To understand the concept of gerrymander and to know its three techniques.

  4. LEARNING OBJECTIVES • To understand the types of legislative committees in the Texas legislature and the functions of each. • To know who are the presiding officers. • To know how the presiding officers obtain their position within the Texas legislature. • Describe the procedural and instructional powers of the presiding officers.

  5. LEARNING OBJECTIVES • To understand the purpose of the committee system. • To know the five types of committees within this system. • To understand how a bill becomes a law.

  6. Texas Legislature: Organization & Structure

  7. Functions of Government • Lawmaking • Constituent service • Ombudsperson • Casework • Representing • Oversight • Public education • Conflict resolution

  8. Functions of Government Lawmaking —charged with making binding rules for all of Texas.

  9. Functions of Government continued • Constituent service —individual members of Texas Legislature are expected by their constituents to act as brokers between private citizens and the imposing, often faceless state government: • Ombudsperson —a person who hears and investigates complaints by private individuals against public officials or agencies. • Casework —personal work for constituents by members of Texas Legislature. • E.G., explaining the meaning of particular bills to people who may be affected by them.

  10. Functions of Government continued • Representing — • as a trustee—who uses personal judgment. • as an instructed delegate —who uses the constituents’ judgment. • politico—a combination of both trustee and instructed delegate roles.

  11. Functions of Government continued • Oversight —It is the process by which the Texas Legislature follows up on the laws it has enacted to ensure that they are being enforced and administered in the way it intended: • For example: Committee hearings and investigations.

  12. Functions of Government continued Public education—this is exercised whenever Texas Legislature has public hearings, exercises oversight over the bureaucracy, or engages in committee and floor debates on such major issues as illegal drugs, etc. Conflict resolution—Where Texas Legislature is resolving conflicts within Texas society.

  13. Geographic Districts In Both Chambers Of The Legislature 0 • There are 150 seats in the Texas House of Representatives and 31 single member districts in the state senate. • Texas House of Representatives = 150 members • http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/redist/pdf/h1369/map.pdf • Texas Senate = 31 members • http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/redist/pdf/s1188/map.pdf

  14. Geographic Districts 0 • Legislators are elected into single-member districts, where each legislator represents a separate, distinct election district. • As held in the 1964, USSC case, Reynolds v. Sims (“one person, one vote”), the Court held that both chambers of a state legislature must be apportioned so that all districts are equal in population. • Following every 10 year census, each state must undertake a redistricting process to correct for changes in the populations of the districts. • Redistricting: the drawing and redrawing of the boundaries of legislative districts. • Schmidt et al, 2010:428 and 837.

  15. Geographic Districts (Cont’d) 0 • The U.S. Voting Rights Act (1965) declares that states with a history of electoral discrimination against minority groups must preclear redistricting plans with the U.S. Justice Department or the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

  16. Limiting Geographic Districts:Through Gerrymandering 0 • Gerrymandering occurs if the lines are redrawn to give a certain party, faction, or ethnic group an advantage.

  17. Gerrymandering: 3 Techniques 0 • Dispersing / Scattering/Cracking: • Concentrated/Packing: • Incumbent Gerrymandering/Pairing:

  18. Dispersing/Scattering/Cracking: 0 • To diffuse a concentrated political or ethnic minority among several districts so that its votes in any one district are negligible. Press link below to view a diagram of this technique. • http://www.alamo.edu/sac/gov/smith/2301Trad/Rich_Text_Format_files/Resource_Materials/gerrymander_3_Techniques.jpg

  19. Concentrated/Packing 0 • Concentrated/Packing occurs if minority’s numbers are great enough when diffused to affect the outcome of elections in several districts. That is, the minority is concentrated in one district to ensure that it will influence only one election and that its influence in the whole legislature will be minimal. Press link below to view a diagram of this technique. • http://www.alamo.edu/sac/gov/smith/2301Trad/Rich_Text_Format_files/Resource_Materials/gerrymander_3_Techniques.jpg

  20. Incumbent Gerrymandering/Pairing 0 • Incumbent Gerrymandering/Pairing redistricts two or more incumbent legislators’ residences or political bases so that both are in the same district, thereby ensuring that one will be defeated. Press link below to view a diagram of this technique. • http://www.alamo.edu/sac/gov/smith/2301Trad/Rich_Text_Format_files/Resource_Materials/gerrymander_3_Techniques.jpg

  21. Texas Senate A U. S. citizen A registered voter At least 26 years of age Have lived in Texas for five years and the district for one year. Texas House A U.S. citizen A registered voter At least 21 years of age Have lived in Texas for two years and the district for one year Formal Qualifications For Membership In The Legislature 0

  22. Lieutenant Governor Serves as President of the Senate Elected to four-year term One of the most powerful Speaker of the House Elected by a house majority from the house membership Powerful Organization of the Legislature 0

  23. Legislative Session 0 • The legislature session meets for 140 days. • Biennial sessions—Texas legislature convenes in odd-numbered years; meeting every other year.

  24. Terms 0 • Texas Senator serves four-year terms. • Texas House serves two-year terms.

  25. Legislators’ Compensation 0 • $7,200 annual salary • $128 per day for expenses for both regular and special sessions • Travel Allowance via reimbursement • Legislators usually have other jobs.

  26. Turnover 0 • The Texas Legislature has a high turnover because of low pay, short sessions, heavy workload, and inadequate staff.

  27. Special Sessions 0 • Only the governor may call a thirty day special session. • These may occur because of the short biennial sessions and the increasingly complex problems of modern society.

  28. Critical Points To Know • A basic understanding of the organization and structure of the Texas Legislature is important, but it tells us only a little about how the legislature actually works. • Laws passed by the legislature are never neutral. • There are always winners and losers. • Some groups bear more of the costs than others do.

  29. Critical Points To Know (continued) • Some groups bear more of the rewards than others do. • Because of the costs and rewards are unequally distributed, groups compete to maximize their gains and minimize their losses in the legislative process. • How does the legislative process actually work? • This is the subject of the latter half of this lecture: The Legislative Process.

  30. Texas Legislature: Its Legislative Process

  31. Who are the presiding officers? • Lieutenant Governor presides over the senate chamber. • Elected by the citizens of Texas in a statewide, partisan election and serves a four-year term. A lieutenant governor is not a senator; yet, the lieutenant governor is in the unique situation of being a member of both the legislative and executive branches.

  32. Who are the presiding officers? Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives. This position is obtained by a majority vote of its membership; the House chooses its presiding officer from among its members by a recorded vote. .

  33. The Presiding Officers Great Influence The lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house exercise significant influence throughout Texas government. HOW?

  34. Procedural tools of Leadership: These are tools that enable the presiding officers in their respective chambers to create lawmaking (directing bills so that they become law—or not). Institutional Tools of Leadership: The board, council, agency, and commission that assist the presiding officers in their respective chambers to create lawmaking (directing bills so that they become law—or not). The legislative Budget Board The Texas legislative Council The State auditor’s Office The Sunset Advisory Commission Presiding Officers’ Tools 0

  35. Appoint most committee chairs Appoint committee members Assigns bills to committee Schedules legislation for floor action Recognize members on the floor for amendments and points of order Interpret the procedural rules when conflict arises Appoint the chairs and members of the conference committees Presiding Officers’ Procedural Powers 0

  36. Presiding Officers’ Nonprocedural (Institutional) Powers 0 • Appoint the members and serve as chair (lieutenant governor) and vice-chair(speaker) of the • Legislative Budget Board—which is responsible for proposing the legislature’s version of the proposed biennial budget. • Legislative Council—which provides support to the legislature, state agencies, and other governmental institutions. It provides research support, information, and bill drafting assistance to legislators.

  37. Presiding Officers’ Nonprocedural (Institutional) Powers (cont’d) 0 • Serve on and appoint the members of the Legislative Audit Committee—which performs audits (formally checking the expenditures) on state agencies and departments for the legislature. • Serve on and appoint the members of the Sunset Advisory Commission—which systematically evaluates most government agencies and departments. The Commission may recommend restructuring, abolishing, or altering the jurisdiction of an agency.

  38. How is work accomplished? Through the committee system. The committee system breaks up the large workload of a legislature and makes the workload more manageable. Press link for more details: http://www.alamo.edu/sac/gov/smith/2301Trad/Committee_System.htm

  39. What are these Legislative Committees? 0 • Standing committees • Subcommittees • Ad Hoc Committees • Conference Committees • Interim Committees

  40. Legislative Committees 0 • Standing committees—are permanent committees that consider bills and monitor administrative behavior in a specific subject matter such as taxing, education, and agriculture. For examples, press links: • House : http://www.house.state.tx.us/committees/welcome.htm • Senate: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/Commit.htm • Useful links: • http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/CommitteesMbrs.aspx?Chamber=H • http://www.texasgovernment.info/house.html

  41. Legislative Committees continued 0 • Subcommittees—are divisions of standing committees. They consider bills within their areas of specialization. • House: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_House_of_Representatives • Senate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_senate#Committee_Structure • Ad Hoc Committees—are temporary committees appointed to consider special issues or problems.

  42. The Conference Committee 0 • Conference committees are ad hoc committees appointed to resolve house and senate versions of the same bill. • They are composed of five members of each house appointed by the respective presiding officers.

  43. 0 Legislative Committees continued • Interim Committees—meet when the legislature is not in session to consider proposed legislation for the next legislative session or to study a particular problem that has arisen since the last session.

  44. Committee Powers and Functions 0 • Committees are “little legislatures”. • Committees are extensions of the presiding officers. • In committee the bills may be • Rewritten • edited • Pigeonholed—the process of a committee voting to table a bill and then forgeting about it.

  45. Committee Powers and Functions continued 0 • Division of Labor • Bills are marked up in each committee. • Competency • The seniority system allows the chairs to become experts in a subject if returned to the same committee year after year.

  46. Committee Powers and Functions continued 0 • Committees may also chose to do the following: • Discharge petition—a seldom used legislative process whereby a pigeonholed bill can be rescued from a committee. • Tagging—a rule that allows a senator to halt a standing committee’s consideration of a bill for 48 hours.

  47. Committee Powers and Functions continued 0 • Bureaucratic Oversight • Committees hold hearing to see that bureaucrats are carrying out public policy. • Several factors make bureaucratic oversight difficult: • short legislative session • movement of members from one committee to another • short term for legislators when compared to top administrators.

  48. Committee Powers and Functions continued 0 • THE HOUSE CALENDAR: • The speaker of the house exercises no formal control over the house calendars. The Calendars Committee (and the much less important Local and Consent Calendars Committee) performs this function. This apparent decentralization of power, however, is more illusion than reality. The members and the chairs of the two committees are appointed by the speaker.

  49. Committee Powers and Functions continued 0 THE SENATE CALENDAR: Unlike the House, the senate has only one calendar. The theoretical process is that a bill is placed o the calendar and then is considered on the senate floor in the chronological order in which it was reported from the committees. • In practice, bills are taken off the calendar for senate consideration only by a suspension of that rule. This suspension requires a two-thirds majority vote of the entire membership of the senate (20 members must agree; 11 members could block the vote). • Most bills are considered by a suspension of the two-thirds rule. • The presiding officer or eleven senators could prevent any bill from becoming law.

  50. The Floor of the House 0 • As bills reach the House floor, a loudspeaker system allows the members and visitors to follow the debate. • Floor leaders usually stand at the front of the chamber, answering questions, and speaking in favor of or against the bill. • Floor leaders defined: representatives who are trying to get a bill passed.