Sunday, November 26, 2006

Expect thousands more bills to be filed at Texas Lege

Now that bill filing season has begun at the Texas Legislature, how many bills should we expect, and how many will become law?

In 2005 during the 79th regular session, a combined total 5,484 bills were filed in the Texas Legislature in both chambers, not including various "resolutions." There were 3,592 bills filed in the House and 1,892 in the Senate. Overall, about 1/4 of them passed: 1,389 pieces of legislation, 19 of which were vetoed. (The Governor vetoed more bills after previous sessions: 48 in 2003 and 82 in 2001).

Bills may be filed anytime between now and mid-March. "Pre-filing" before the session begins in January offers a chance for early publicity, but doesn't necessarily make a bill more likely to pass.

With only 31 senators and 150 House members, you'd expect senators' bills would be a lot more likely to get through the process. That turns out to be marginally true - about 24% of House members' bills passed into law, and 27% of senate bills. OTOH, with nearly 2,000 more bills filed in the lower chamber, that's a lot of dead legislation lying around the battlefield by the end of the 140-day biennial legislative session.

In my experience, a bill's passage often depends more on the legislative skill of the bill author than the content of the legislation - certainly that's true of the originally filed language. Some members know how to pass bills. Many don't. It's a lot of work to get a piece of legislation that's worth a damn all the way through the process. It's much easier to pass a piece of compromised junk, which is mostly why the laws are written the way they are.

The legislative process in Texas in many ways is designed to kill bills or severely compromise them, not pass them - at least when vocal, focused opposition surfaces against legislation. For the most part, given the content of many of these proposals, that's a good thing. Many that do pass are minimalist changes - tweaks rather than significant alterations to the law. Often bills transform dramatically during the process, for good or ill, so it's very difficult to identify at this point which few will be both a) truly signficant and b) have a chance to pass. All you can do for now is keep your eyes peeled.

It's still early in the game, but the game is on. See Grits' earlier coverage of pre-filed bills.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Texas billhop is a wiki to help track some of those five thousand bills. Its just coming out of beta, but it looks to be a useful tool to see which bills have interest and might move somewhere.