Welcome to another edition of Texas Legislative News for the 88th Texas Legislature. In this weekly feature, we’ll provide information on disability-related issues that are being considered at the Texas State Capitol. We’ll also include overviews of how business is conducted by lawmakers and details on upcoming TCDD events.
The Legislature Comes to Town
On Tuesday, Jan. 10, state lawmakers will convene for the 88th regular session of the Texas Legislature. These regular sessions take place for 140 days every two years and include the consideration of many policy topics. House and Senate members are typically required to pass only a single piece of legislation — the two-year state budget — but in this session, they’re sure to grapple with additional matters such as property tax reduction, mental health, and education. If there is unfinished business when the legislature adjourns on May 29, then Gov. Greg Abbott can call lawmakers back for 30-day special sessions on topics of his choosing.
The Texas Senate is comprised of 31 members, each of whom represents over 940,000 constituents. A senator’s term of office is usually four years, and those terms are scheduled so that about half of the body is up for election every two years.
The Senate’s presiding officer is the lieutenant governor of Texas, currently Dan Patrick, who is elected statewide every four years. Under current Senate rules, the lieutenant governor essentially controls which bills are brought up for consideration by the body and appoints the committees that do much of the Senate’s work.
The Texas House of Representatives is comprised of 150 members, each of whom represents about 194,000 constituents. A state representative’s term of office is two years, and each of them comes up for election every even-numbered year.
The body’s presiding officer is the speaker of the Texas House. The speaker is named on the first day of the legislative session, decided by a vote of the 150 House members. Last session’s speaker, Rep. Dade Phelan, is widely expected to be chosen by his fellow members to continue in that role.
Rules of Operation
Once lawmakers convene, it is customary for them to quickly adopt the rules they will operate under for the session. Senators usually adopt the rules for their body on the first day; House members often wait a day or two before doing so.
The Rhythm of Session
Based on Texas Constitutional guidelines limiting the consideration of bills, the first month of the legislative session has a fairly slow pace. It starts to pick up in February, particularly after committees are appointed in the Texas House. By April, lawmakers are typically considering dozens, if not hundreds, of bills each day and continue to do so through May. TCDD will follow along to keep you updated on issues of interest to the disability community.
If you’re new to the legislative process, you may soon hear some words or phrases that are unfamiliar, like “chubbing” or “point of order.” The Texas Legislative Council has prepared a legislative glossary that is a handy resource to help clear up any confusion.
Bill Filing Continues
With less than 24 hours before the start of session, over 1,600 bills have already been pre-filed for lawmakers to consider in the coming months. Recently filed proposals related to disability issues include:
- House Bill (HB) 1007 by Rep. Chris Turner, relating to prohibiting weapons in certain facilities or residences providing services to individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability.
- HB 1009 by Rep. Chris Turner, relating to criminal history record information reviews of certain individuals providing services to individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability.
- HB 1037 by Rep. Terry Meza, relating to a sales and use tax exemption for taxable items used to assist persons with an intellectual or developmental disability.
- HB 1052 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa, relating to the use of enrollment for special education allotment under the Foundation School Program.
- HB 1111 by Rep. Terry Meza, relating to a study on providing applied behavior analysis services to children with autism under Medicaid and other public benefits programs.
- HB 1113 by Rep. Terry Meza, relating to the creation of a low-interest loan program for entrepreneurs with physical or mental disabilities.
- Senate Bill (SB) 362 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, relating to the terminology used in statute to refer to intellectual disability.
In observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the TCDD offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 16. As a result, next week’s TCDD Legislative News will be distributed on Tuesday the 17th.
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