Republican Representative Kyle Larson (San Antoni0) pre-filed HB979 seeking to have the Texas Legislature meet every year instead of just the odd-numbered years. The bill would change the normally 140-day session every two years into a 70-day session every year. Because the change would require a constitutional amendment, he also introduced HJR52 calling for a popular vote on the constitution.
Texas is only one of four states that do not have annual legislative sessions. The other three, Nevada, North Dakota and Montana, are much smaller states in population. Among the 46 states that meet annually, the length of session varies from as little as 30 days to being continuously in session. One state has a 60-day session to produce a biennium budget followed by a 30-day session the next year.
Members of the Texas legislature are paid when not in session and receive per diem on days they work. The cost to the state for their service would not seem to be substantially different. Legislative staff on the other hand are often hired for the 140-150 days of the session and many are furloughed when the legislature is not in session, especially in the Texas House where budgets for staff are very limited. It seems likely that staff costs would increase under this proposal.
Meeting every year would have the potential to reduce the concerns expressed this year that the Governor has too much authority without legislative oversight during the non-legislative years. Many members of the legislature felt the Governor’s face mask and lock down executive orders needed legislative input.
There are likely to be 7,000 bills introduced this session. About 20% will make it into law. We will keep an eye on this one and let you know how it progresses.