The legislative process is now fully underway: bills are being heard in committee, and this month bills will begin to be debated by the full House. As of this writing, approximately 5600 bills have been filed by both the House and Senate. On Tuesday the House Committee on Insurance, which I chair, passed out its first bills. The Transportation Committee, of which I am a member, also passed out HB 62, which would ban texting while driving state-wide.
The deadline to file most bills was Friday, March 10. Last week, I wrote about the committee process each bill must go through before it reaches the floor for debate. This week, I will talk about the rest of steps through which each bill must pass.
Once session begins, each bill is read before the full House and is then referred to a committee by the Speaker. If the bill is passed out of committee, it is sent to the Calendars Committee. The Calendars Committee then votes whether or not to schedule the bill for a 2nd reading. If the Calendars Committee schedules the bill, the bill is read again before the full House. It is during the 2nd reading that most of the debate on the bill is heard. Amendments to the bill can be offered and voted on during this time as well. After debate on the bill has been heard, the bill comes up for a vote. If a majority of the members vote in favor of the bill, it is passed to third reading. If a majority of members vote against the bill, then it does not pass and will not become law.
During the third reading of the bill, some debate is heard, but not usually as much as during the 2nd reading. Another vote is taken on the bill, and if it passes, it is considered "engrossed." Engrossed bills are then sent to the Senate to repeat the entire process again. If a bill passes through the Senate, it is then sent to the governor. The governor can either let the bill become law or veto it.
Bills that originate in the Senate go through almost the same process. Senate rules are slightly different than those of the House, but all bills must pass both houses in order to become law.
For more information on the legislative process, or to review legislation that has been filed, please visit the website www.capitol.texas.gov. You can contact my office by writing to P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 or by emailing me at email@example.com. My district office phone number is (903) 891-7297.