Final Days of the 85th Texas Legislative Session

Final Days of the 85th Texas Legislative Session

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So at the end of a session, you reach a bottleneck
and it’s designed to kill legislation. About 6,700 bills were filed during the session. If it’s a normal session, about one-fifth
of those will pass, and it’s because they hit a bunch of intermediate deadlines. You might have heard of the “Mother’s Day
Massacre.” That was a day when it was the last day the
House could consider bills that started in the House, and some members who were upset
about the way their bills had gone lit a bomb under 120 bills and killed them all at once. There was all kinds of deadlines like that;
there are going to be more little episodes like that as we go forward. The Senate bill deadline is coming up, and
then there are deadlines each day until almost the end of the session. By the time you get to the last day, all they
can do is corrections, and by that they really mean corrections. Commas, semicolons, periods and get out of
town. The main bill that they have to do at the
legislative session is the budget, and they still have that to do. It’s not unusual for it to be one of the last
things that gets accomplished because they want to bring in all of the numbers, all the
policy changes, all the program changes, get them all into a budget. It’s in the hands of conferees. Five members of the House, five members of
the Senate. They’re settling the differences between the
two bodies, making some adjustments, and they’ll present that to the whole Legislature before
they leave on Memorial Day. At the end of every legislative session, as
you get into the last few weeks, people start talking about whether or not there will be
a special session. A regular legislative session in Texas takes
place every two years, it lasts 140 days, and a governor can call a special session
for emergencies and for failures. The emergencies are things they can’t control. Hurricanes, the economy crashes, all kinds
of things like that that might need legislative attention, and the governor can call them
back for 30 days and say, ‘Work on this or that.” Failures are when the Legislature doesn’t
do something it’s supposed to do. For example, if it doesn’t get a budget passed
during this session, if it doesn’t finish its reviews of state agencies that keep them
alive for another 12 years — things like that can force special sessions. And now that we’re at the end and people see
some bills are going to die, some bills are going to survive, they’ve started talking
about whether or not there might be special sessions in June or July, or sometime in the
future. “Sine die” is Latin for a phrase every
bartender in Austin knows. It means they’re going home, and it actually
means adjourning without day. Usually when the House or Senate adjourns,
they say, “We’re adjourning until Thursday at 10, or Friday at 11,” or whatever. On the last day, they just adjourn and say,
“We’re adjourning without day, sine die.”

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