House of Representatives
Last updated 6/28/2022 at 4:10pm
The Texas House of Representatives is made up of 150 members elected from individual districts throughout the state. Traditionally they are re-done to accommodate changes in population every ten years. The only exception is recently when the Republicans chose to re-apportion the state while there had been no recent census carving the state into districts that assured a Republican majority in the House. The House according to the state’s constitution is required to meet at noon, on the second Tuesday of every odd numbered year for a maximum of 140 days. The Legislature can also meet when called into session by the governor but can only consider those matters submitted by the governor during a called session.
When an annual session begins the first order of business is the House being called to order by the Texas Secretary of State and the rules to be used for that particular session are adopted. Traditionally, there is an adoption of temporary rules leaving the permanent rules to be adopted later in the session. The second order of business is the election of a speaker from members of the House.
The speaker of the House is armed with authority to name the chairs of the standing committees, appoint sub-committees and their membership as well as their chairs. The speaker of the House is also the traffic director for legislation having the power to assign any bill introduced to the committee of his choice.
Unlike the Senate where unlimited debate abounds, debate on legislation in the House is fairly limited, usually by 20-minute limit with 10 minutes allowed for rebuttal. It is common, however, on important matters where serious questions are being asked and answered the House has the authority to move to extend the time of whomever is presenting in an effort to get a full explanation of the bill. The House is prohibited by the constitution from meeting in closed session and must throughout its work remain open to the public.
The speaker, like each other member of the House is paid $600 per month, the only perk enjoyed by the speaker, however, is an apartment furnished for the speaker adjoining his office in the state capitol building. In addition to his other duties, the speaker of the House serves on the Legislative Budget Board which has authority when the Legislature is not in session to transfer funds from one purpose to another. The speaker also heads an organization called the Legislative Council which is a team of clerks, secretaries and lawyers whose duty it is to assist with drafting bills.
Since the late 60s and early 70s a speaker pro tempore is chosen by the speaker to preside in his absence. As a side note, I had the privilege of being the second speaker pro tempore chosen for the House of Representatives. Incidentally, to my knowledge, I am the only person who has served both as speaker pro tempore of the Texas House of Representatives and President of the Texas Senate. Neither office granted a whole lot of power but it looks nice on one’s resume.
The local history of Southeast Texas participation in the House of Representatives has changed over the years. In the 60s representatives were chosen at-large from designated districts. As an example, Jefferson County had four representatives, all elected county-wide and Orange County had one. During the 60s, until the late 70s Jefferson and Orange Counties voted as a block and was able to accomplish several good things for Jefferson and Orange Counties.
Although the constitution provides the House to meet every other year, there is seldom been a two-year period in Texas history when the Legislature was not called back into session for some reason. There have been numerous proposals that Texas, like the vast majority of other states, conduct annual sessions so tor be better able to allocate funds and respond to critical needs of the state on a regular basis rather than attempting to budget for a two-year cycle. Such proposals have been met with little support.