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How does a bill become a law?

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

At the time of writing this article, there have been 5,657 bills filed for the 88th Texas Legislative Session in both the Texas House and Senate. During the 87th session, 6,927 bills were filed and only 1,073 were passed. 926 bills were filed during the special sessions of the 87th Legislature; and only 24 were passed.

So how does the Texas Legislature get to that point? How were approximately 15% of the 6,927 bills filed passed? I’m sure many of you have seen Schoolhouse Rock’s video on how a bill becomes a law. Let’s review!

Bill Introduction

The first day of filing bills for the 88th Texas Legislature was November 14, 2022. Although bills can be filed as early as November, the 88th Texas Legislative Session did not begin until January 10, 2023. Legislators can file bills throughout the first 60 days of the session, which ends on March 10, 2023. Once the bill is introduced, a short description of the bill, which is known as a caption, is read from the floor of the House or Senate chambers, and referred to the appropriate committee.

Committee action

Committee chairs will determine which bills are considered by the committee. For bills considered, the committee will hear testimony, including both invited and public testimony, regarding the bill. The committee may choose not to take action or may issue a report on the bill. If no action is taken, the bill dies. The Committee’s Report will include the committee’s recommendations and votes, any proposed amendments, a bill analysis, and a fiscal note or other impact statements. The report is sent to all members of the Texas Legislature.

Floor action

Once the committee report is received by all of the members of the Texas Legislature, the bill is read by its caption, which is the 2nd reading. The legislators debate and amend the bill. The members of that chamber will cast their votes on the bill. In order for the bill to pass, it must receive a majority vote on the third reading. If it passes, it is sent to the other side of the chamber and the cycle starts over. Once the bill is returned to originating chamber, it may have amendments. The originating chamber can choose to accept the amendments or request a conference committee. If the chamber accepts the amendments, the bill is put in its final form and sent to the governor.

Conference Committee

A Conference Committee is only necessary if two different versions of the same bill exist. If the originating chamber does not accept the bill with amendments made by the other chamber, they can request a conference committee to work out the differences between the house and senate versions of the bill.

Conference committees consist of five members from each chamber who are appointed by the presiding officers. Once the committee comes to an agreement, a conference committee report is prepared. The report must be approved by at least 3 of the 5 committee members from each chamber. The report is voted on within each chamber, and must be approved or rejected without amendment. Once approved by both chambers, the bill is signed by the presiding officers and sent to the governor.

Governor’s desk

Once the governor receives the bill, he has ten days to take action. The governor can sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature. If the legislature is still in session, a vetoed bill will return to the originating chamber with an explanation of the governor’s objections. In order to override the veto, a two-thirds majority is required in each chamber. If the governor does not veto or sign the bill within ten days, the bill will become law. If a bill is sent to the governor within ten days before final adjournment, the governor will have up to twenty days after final adjournment to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature.

For a visualization of this process, see the links below.

Mónica Dávila is the behavioral health policy fellow with Prosper Waco.

It is a position funded by the Hogg Foundation.


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