Wed January 23, 2013
For Lawmakers, A Slow Start And A Quickening Pace
Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 11:08 am
Texas lawmakers were back at work Wednesday, after nearly a week off.
They have about 125 days left in their 140 day session. While a vacation right off the bat might seem like a lazy start to their every-other-year meeting, it’s all part of the plan: In musical terms, each session has it's own rhythm and tempo.
It all begins with the flourish of a pounding gavel, but then it quickly dies down. And not a whole lot gets done right away: for the most part, lawmakers can't take a final vote on any bills in the first 60 days. It’s in the state Constitution (Article 3, Section 5). That means our little Legislative Symphony is kind of quiet in the beginning.
But when we get a little ways into the first 60 days, the tempo picks up a bit. That momentum will keep building until March 8 – the 60 day deadline for filing most bills – and snowball into frantic activity before sine die – the end of the legislative session. (Here’s the dates of interest for the 83rd legislature.)
While that means Texans will have to wait a few weeks or months for any real action, that’s in part what the framers of the Texas were striving for.
“There’s a sense in which legislators are not only supposed to pass laws,” says Jim Henson, who directs the Texas Politics Project at UT. “They are supposed to deliberate," says Henson. "The flip side might be, do you really want your legislature – in particular the Texas Legislature for that matter – to go in and start passing stuff right away? You might not want that."
Of course, whether 140 days is still enough time to do everything in today’s reality? That’s another question.