Today’s Lesson: The Texas House of Representatives.
We can bare bones this then go into more detail of how the House acts in the legislative session (call it txlege for funsies). For starters, let’s talk about the history and purpose of the House. The house is the lower house half paired with the Senate upper half which makes our lege whole. The point of having two chambers of lege is to make it more difficult for the whole branch to coordinate efforts for any particular legislative agenda. But also lol because we live in a trifecta state where our Governor, House, and Senate are all ruled by one party, but bipartisan faith or something like that! Our House itself is made up of 67 Democrats, 82 Republicans, and one vacancy which is set to be filled after a runoff in February.
We all have one representative. There are 150 of them in our state, so that’s a lot of names to take, and hold accountable for the culture we want to see in Texas. House members are elected every two years. Let’s reiterate that this is a redistricting session meaning new boundaries are redrawn which determine the districts the representatives, ya know, represent. We have the right to testify for fair and transparent maps for our communities during the redistricting hearings.
Quiz time: Do you know who your House representative is?
Jk no quizzes here, find out who your representative is by following this nifty link from the Texas Tribune.
Role in legislative session:
Members of the House can introduce bills to their chamber then the Speaker of the House will refer legislation to the committee dealing with the direct subject matter. The committees form research, collect opinions on the bill, and edit the bill before approving or denying it to go to the Senate. Many bills die in the committees.Then it goes to the Senate. They can make amendments and send it back or not. The House can agree to the amendments or not, send it back, rinse and repeat, until an agreement is reached. If passed, it will generally go into effect in 90 days.
Speaker of the House:
On the first day of a legislative session, the Speaker of the House is elected, but campaigning for this position starts way before. The newly elected speaker of the house is Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, who secured the position with 143-2 and four non-votes. Many house representatives – Republican and Democrat – have expressed good faith that Phelan will lead with a bipartisan lens. Fingers crossed, toes crossed, and whatever else you can cross in hopes that this is true. But, what exactly does Phelan control as Speaker of the House? What does Dade do?
- Appoints members to committees (honoring seniority,)
- determines which bills get discussed in committees,
- keeps order during debate on the House floor,
- serves on the Legislative Council and the Legislative Audit Committee, and serves as vice-chair on the Legislative Budget Board. He is also a member of the Legislative Redistricting Board.
Dade does be doing a lot. Phelan holds a lot of power on what legislation is prioritized and by who. Read more on what Phelan’s priorities for this session are here.
Committees and leadership were assigned Feb. 4, and they are a doozy. Read about the assignments and see the full list here.
Meetings of a house committee are generally required to be open to the public and can hear testimony from the public on the subject at hand. When holding a public hearing, the house must post notice of it at least five days before the hearing during a regular session. So, keep an eye out for important hearings. And testify pleeeease. Please. Please.
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