Texas Legislature Now Permitted to Debate Bills as Session Reaches Constitutional 60-Day Mark

Today marks a deadline for state lawmakers when filing stops and voting begins — the 60th day of the Texas Legislature, which kicked off on January 12.

During the first 60 days of the legislative session, lawmakers are allowed to file legislation on any topics they choose. As usual, thousands of bills have been introduced this session.

According to Senate rules, senators may not file bills after the 60-day mark unless the governor submits an emergency item for the legislature to consider or the Senate votes to suspend the rule.

“No bill shall be introduced after the first 60 calendar days of the session,” the rules read.

“This provision may only be suspended by an affirmative vote of four-fifths of the members of the Senate.”

The same mandate appears in the House rules:

“Bills and joint resolutions introduced during the first 60 calendar days of the regular session may be considered by the committees and in the house and disposed of at any time during the session, in accordance with the rules of the house,” the rules say.

“After the first 60 calendar days of a regular session, any bill or joint resolution, except local bills, emergency appropriations, and all emergency matters submitted by the governor in special messages to the legislature, shall require an affirmative vote of four-fifths of those members present and voting to be introduced.”

These requirements are rooted in the Texas Constitution’s instructions for the legislature’s first 60 days, which also enable the governor to push emergency items.

Article III, Section 5 directs the legislative branch, in its first 30 days, to consider items that include “acting upon emergency appropriations,” approving gubernatorial recess appointments, and “such emergency matters as may be submitted by the governor in special messages to the Legislature.”

In his state of the state address, Gov. Greg Abbott announced several items of business that he considers urgent for the 87th Legislature.

These emergency items include expanding rural broadband access, consequences for municipalities that attempt to “defund the police,” bail reform, election integrity, and civil liability protection for those who “operated safely during the pandemic.”

After the winter storm, Abbott added reform to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to the emergency agenda.

Although the legislature cannot consider bills before the 60-day mark, it can refer bills to committees. The constitution instructs lawmakers to hear bills and resolutions in committee during the second 30-day period of the regular session. Committee referrals may be viewed here.

Only after 60 days is the legislature permitted to “act upon such bills and resolutions as may be then pending and upon such emergency matters as may be submitted by the Governor in special messages to the Legislature.” In other words, the constitution prohibits the legislature from considering and voting on bills before the first 60 days are up.

If the legislature has seemed tame so far, the people of Texas can expect the drama to ramp up as lawmakers begin debating, amending, and voting come Friday.

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