How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.
      -Samuel Johnson-

EIGHTY-FIRST TEXAS LEGISLATURE
LIMPS OUT OF TOWN

The Texas Legislature has wrapped up the 81st regular session without passing “must-have” legislation. Some Texas state agencies—including the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Insurance—face an uncertain future because lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would extend their existence. This oversight will result in a special session at some future date.

As always, legislators began the session by spending a day piously debating and adopting rules of procedure, and then spent the next 139 days violating, ignoring, or suspending those rules. But there the similarities to all other sessions ended.

The Important Numbers

The 2009 session was characterized, first and foremost, by the volume of work. Lawmakers filed 7,609 bills and proposed Constitutional amendments. That’s an increase of 19 percent over the 2007 figure and 29 percent more than 10 years ago. It’s likely that no other American legislative body has ever filed that many bills in a biennium. The volume of bills was made even harder to handle by a five-day, late-session talk-a-thon in the House that prevented a voter identification bill from being considered for passage but held up dozens of other measures, as well.

As a result, the number of bills passed dropped slightly (please see the accompanying chart). In 2007, lawmakers passed 23.5 percent of bills filed; this year, only 19.3 percent made the cut.

Year
Total Bills Introduced*
Total Bills Passed
City-Related Bills Introduced
City-Related Bills Passed
1993
4,560
1,089
800+
140+
1995
5,147
1,101
800+
140+
1997
5,741
1,502
1,100+
130+
1999
5,908
1,638
1,230+
130+
2001
5,712
1,621
1,200+
150+
2003
5,754
1,403
1,200+
110+
2005
5,369
1,397
1,200+
105+
2007
6,374
1,495
1,200+
120+
2009
7,609
1,468
1,500+
120+
*Includes bills and proposed Constitutional amendments; regular session only.

 

For city-related bills, the success rate was even lower: roughly eight percent. That’s good news for cities, since the lion’s share of the city-related bills would have harmed municipal authority in some way.

In the final days of the session, it required procedural sleight-of-hand to pass even the most non-controversial of bills. On the last day, almost nothing happened. House members, for example, spent most of their time passing resolutions recognizing staffers, friends, or family members. The highlight was a resolution that recognized a lawmaker’s grandson for graduating from high school. Then, the House suddenly adjourned without enacting important legislation. Not long after, the Senate, in a fit of pique aimed at the House, also called it quits.

Looking Ahead

The following sections contain summaries of the major city-related bills passed by the Eighty-First Legislature. The governor has until June 21 to sign bills, veto them, or let them become law without his signature. Some of the bills described below will become effective as soon as they are signed; others (unless vetoed) will become effective on Monday, August 31. The specific effective date for each bill can be found on the Internet at Texas Legislature Online.

Future issues of the TML Legislative Update or Texas Town and City magazine will provide additional details on some of the bills described here.

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose.
No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the
Texas Municipal League.

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