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With election over, state lawmakers get jump on legislative session

 - Slow start anticipated, special session possible

As the last particles of dust from the General Election settled, state lawmakers on Monday began pre-filing bills for consideration in the upcoming legislative session which begins Tuesday, Jan. 13. Pre-filed bills typically get a lot of attention, but they rarely figure heavily in the ultimate legislative agenda.

Most major policy initiatives are filed weeks after legislators convene, with the bill filing deadline set for the 60th day of the session, Friday, March 13. The 140-day session adjourns Monday, June 1.

As brief as the biennial session is, the actual timeframe for considering and passing legislation is even tighter.  Lawmakers cannot consider bills before the 30th day of the session that don’t address an emergency issue as declared by the Governor.

And committees can’t meet until they’ve been appointed, which typically doesn’t occur until the end of January.  With the historic changes in the Senate and a new presiding officer, the Lt. Governor, some Capitol observers are anticipating the upper chamber’s committees could take even longer to take shape.

Add to that legislative deadlines that commence in early May, as well as delays caused by the requisite pomp of inaugurations and State of the State speeches at the front end of the session, and Texas lawmakers have only about half of the prescribed 140 days to get the bulk of their work done.

With the constitutionality of the state’s school finance system still being deliberated in court, lawmakers are expected to have to conclude their budget work in a special session. But then lawmakers were in the same position – and subject to the same prognostication – last session, and no special session resulted.

That was because lawmakers changed the school testing and funding scheme so much that the courts needed time to determine the effect of those changes on the case.

The only constitutionally required action of the Legislature is the adoption of a two-year budget.  With Texas’ coffers flush and so many core functions of government in dire need of greater support, the task might seem easy to accomplish. 

But that logic conflicts with the intense desire by many lawmakers and their political benefactors to reduce state spending and taxes further, meaning that this year’s special session rumors may bear fruit.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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