The size of the legislature and the volume of work confronting it each session makes it difficult for the entire body to deliberate on each piece of legislation. To make the legislative process as efficient as possible, the Texas Legislature uses the committee system when considering introduced bills. Committees are assigned jurisdiction over specific matters, they consider bills related to their designated policy areas, and make recommendations on how to proceed with those bills. In the Texas House, Speaker Dade Phelan assigns legislators to sit on at least one committee, while most sit on two or three.
For the 88th Legislative Session, there are 34 standing committees that will consider legislation on subjects like Public Education, Public Health, Homeland Security & Public Safety, etc. Once a bill is referred to the respective committee, the committee chair decides when the committee will meet, and which bills will be considered at that hearing. To assist legislators in considering proposed bills, committee members receive fiscal notes, impact statements, and bill analyses to better understand the legislation before them.
Meetings of a House committee or subcommittee are generally required to be open to the public. At these meetings, legislators can hear public testimony, discuss proposed legislation, and take formal action. After considering a bill, a committee may choose to take no action or may issue a report on the bill to the chamber at large. Once a bill is reported out of committee, it will be placed on the House calendar for consideration by the entire body. An unfavorable report will kill the bill, but bills have rarely been reported unfavorably and are typically left pending in committee if they do not have enough support. When the bill is reported to the Texas House it will include: the committee’s recommendations and vote regarding the bill; the text of the bill as reported by the committee; a bill analysis; a fiscal note or other impact statement.
Committees are an important step in the legislative process of the Texas Legislature. After being reported out of committee, however, there are still more steps in the legislative process. Check out our blog post about how a bill becomes a law in Texas to see what happens to legislation after committee.