Texas House of Representative Agency History

Texas House of Representatives Agency History

The Texas House of Representatives is one arm of the Legislature of the State of Texas (the other being the Texas Senate), which the Texas Constitution (Article III, Section 1) vests with all legislative power of the state. The primary legislative power is enacting laws, and the most visible function of the legislature is to make public policy through drafting, considering, and passing bills and resolutions. Biennially, the House of Representatives elects a speaker from its membership to serve as its presiding officer. The House of Representatives consists of 150 representatives elected in even-numbered years for two-year terms. A representative must be at least 21 years old, a qualified voter, and a resident of Texas for at least two years and of the district represented for at least one year immediately preceding election.

In addition to legislative powers, the legislature exercises other types of authority. Constituent powers include the ability to alter the state constitution, and the members’ authority to exercise powers of attorney in behalf of their constituents. Directory and supervisory powers allow the legislature to regulate the state’s administrative machinery, made up of boards, commissions, and departments that conduct the affairs of state. The legislature establishes and funds these bodies and defines their functions. Executive powers of each house include selection of legislative officers, employees, and chairs and members of committees. Investigative powers are exercised through the formation of standing, special, interim, and joint committees to study an issue. House committees are usually charged with a particular purpose by the speaker, although this may also be accomplished by a resolution adopted by the house. Each legislative house holds judicial powers over its members, including punishing or expelling members for cause.

The legislature meets in regular session on the second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years and in special sessions when convened by the governor. The length of the regular session is limited to 140 days. Special sessions are limited to 30 days, but the number of special sessions that may be called is not limited. Only legislative matters submitted by the governor may be considered in special session. All legislative sessions, except for the senate’s executive session, are open. Neither house may, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days or move to a place other than where the legislature is sitting. Two-thirds of each house constitutes a quorum, the number of members required to conduct business. If a quorum is not present, a smaller number may vote to adjourn and compel absent members to attend. The house is required to keep and publish a journal of its proceedings and to record the vote on any question on which three members who are present demand an actual count of yeas and nays.

The House of Representatives functions through committees set up under its own rules. The house maintains more standing committees than the senate. By custom the speaker appoints standing, special, and conference committees, although the house is free to designate its own method of selection. Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1961, the committee system was expanded, and provisions were made whereby standing, special, and general investigating committees created by each body could function whether or not the legislature was in session. As of 2016, the house has 38 standing committees: Agriculture and Livestock; Appropriations; Business and Industry; Calendars; Corrections; County Affairs; Criminal Jurisprudence; Culture, Recreation, and Tourism; Defense and Veterans’ Affairs; Economic and Small Business Development; Elections; Energy Resources; Environmental Regulation; General Investigating and Ethics; Government Transparency and Operation; Higher Education; Homeland Security and Public Safety; House Administration; Human Services; Insurance; International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs; Investments and Financial Services; Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence; Juvenile Justice and Family Issues; Land and Resource Management; Licensing and Administrative Procedures; Local and Consent Calendars; Natural Resources; Pensions; Public Education; Public Health; Redistricting; Rules and Resolutions; Special Purpose Districts; State Affairs; Transportation; Urban Affairs; and Ways and Means.

(Sources include: Guide to Texas State Agencies, 11th edition (2001); Legislative Reference Library of Texas website (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/index.cfm), accessed December 5, 2016; and the records themselves.)