Senator Jane Nelson's Capitol Digest
An Update on Issues Facing Texas

January 9, 2005

Legislature Reconvenes on Tuesday

The Texas Legislature will reconvene for its 79th Regular Session on Tuesday for a 140-day session ending on May 30, and every moment can be followed via the Internet at the Texas Legislature Online at www.capitol.state.tx.us and

Opening day ceremonies for the Senate may be viewed online at www.senate.state.tx.us while ceremonies in the House can be viewed at www.house.state.tx.us.

Legislative Primer

It's time to brush up on your Texas civics! During the next five months, the Legislature will consider several proposals for new laws, changes to existing laws, or the removal of current laws. And with so many new families moving to Texas since the last legislative session, we thought you might appreciate a quick refresher.

According to the Texas Constitution, the Legislature meets for 140 days every odd-numbered year to consider legislation and set a two-year state budget. Unsuccessful bills from previous sessions or any previous special session do not carry over, so the process begins with a clean slate.

During the interim period, Senate and House committees conducted sweeping reviews of several issues and made recommendations to the upcoming Legislature. But for any of those recommendations to become law, it will require an act of the Legislature.

Legislative Process

The vast majority of bills filed do not become law. For a bill to be successful, it must clear a series of hurdles. Senate Bills must first obtain a hearing and a successful vote in a Senate Committee. If and when a bill is considered in committee is determined by the Committee Chairman. Once a bill clears the Committee, the Senate author must garner support from two-thirds of the Senate (21 votes) in order to come up for discussion on the Senate floor.

Once a bill is approved by the Senate, it goes to the House where it must go through the same committee process. The House does not have a two-thirds rule, so once a bill clears committee it goes to the Calendars Committee, which decides if and when a bill is set for a vote on the House floor.

Once a bill has been approved by both Chambers, the Governor has three options: sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

Citizen Involvement

The legislative process can move very quickly, especially in the waning days of the session. Once committee assignments have been made, hearing schedules will be posted on the Internet with a list of bills that are eligible for a hearing. Citizens who are interested in tracking the progress of various bills may sign up for email notification when the status of a particular bill has changed.

Citizens may also provide written or public testimony on any piece of legislation, but the best way to make your voice heard is to contact your representative with your opinions. Every Texan is represented by one of the 31 members of the Senate and one of the 150 members of the House. Legislative courtesy dictates that each member be allowed to serve his or her own constituents. To find your incumbent, visit www.capitol.state.tx.us and enter your home address.

Contacting Senator Nelson

Senator Jane Nelson represents Senate District 12, which includes parts of Tarrant and Denton counties. You may write to her at P.O. Box 12068, Austin, Texas 78711 or email her at jane.nelson@senate.state.tx.us. If using email, please be sure to include your name, home address and other contact information. You may also call the Capitol Office at 512-463-0112 or the District Office in Grapevine at 817-424-3446.

Happy New Year and Best wishes in 2005!

For more information on these or other issues, visit the Legislature online at www.capitol.state.tx.us or call Senator Nelson's Capitol Office at 512-463-0112 or District Office in Grapevine at 817-424-3446.

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