Welcome to all students back on campus for the spring semester! We hope you had a great break. While you were away, the Texas Legislature swung back into action, convening the 83rd regular session that started Tuesday, January 8, and will run until Monday, May 27, 2013.
As a law school located in the state capital of Austin, students have a front row seat so to speak for observing the process of lawmaking on the state level. There are some peculiarities to Texas that can be helpful to know, largely due to the state’s constitutional history. For instance, Texas is one of only four states with a legislature that convenes every other year and, in Texas, regular sessions only occur in odd-numbered years like 2013. Changing this tradition so that the Texas Legislature meets every year is in and of itself a perennial piece of proposed legislation.
A good place to look for understanding the legislative process is Tarlton’s legal research guide on Texas Legislative History Research. Although Tarlton’s guide is entitled legislative history, it offers a good prospective view of the many hoops bills in this session will have to jump through to become law. Another good source of information can be the Legislative Reference Library of Texas, the primary purpose of which is “to satisfy the reference and research needs of the Legislature, its staff, and its committees.”
To see what bills have been filed so far this session, go the Texas Legislature‘s website and select the Reports link under Additional Searches, and then select the General Reports tab. As you’ll quickly discover, there are tons of bills filed in both the House and Senate. To make sense of them all, it can help to look to news sources. The Texas Tribune is one good source, and even offers a visual aid of the proposed laws by subject. The Austin American Statesman also groups its coverage of the legislature in one place with a Virtual Capitol portion of its website.
So will the legislature really be done with its work by May 27? If history is any indication, no! Expect a special “Called Session” to start the next day.