The 82nd Legislature Goes into Special Session #1

Since the Senate failed to pass the “must pass” school finance plan which was included in SB 1811, the Governor called for a Special Session to begin on May 31st at 8:00 AM.  In order to help you understand this, I asked permission to reprint the following article that was posted earlier today in the Quorum Report.

A Little Background on Special Sessions

Just because the 82nd Legislature has gone into overtime, don’t expect it to end in sudden death anytime soon.

Lest anyone think a quick fix and swift end to the First Called Session may be at hand, procedure wonks and rules nerds are telling QR that this could take awhile, i.e., at least several days. It could take longer depending on whether Gov. Rick Perry embellishes the two-topic call, either on his own or at legislators’ request.

The governor decides what to include in the call, but each house’s officers get to decide what’s germane to it. For example, if regulating fruit production were listed in the proclamation, it would be up to the parliamentarians whether a tomato bill was in order.

House and Senate rules anticipate a faster pace during specials, so deadlines generally are compressed. But once rules are adopted, it takes two-thirds majorities to suspend them.

In the Senate, which routinely suspends its own rules, the Intent (to suspend) Calendar won’t be used because the Regular Order of Business will be relatively small, making it unnecessary. And if there’s no “blocker bill” at the top of the agenda, there will be no need to go out of order. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has indicated that the Senate will be considering bills by majority vote anyway.

Both chambers still will have to refer bills to committees and conduct hearings before considering them, despite having just voted on some of them a day or two ago. Both houses will have 24-hour layout rules, but theCalendars Committee will have to post notice, meet and set bills on one of the House calendars before that clock starts ticking. Chairman Todd Hunter has told members to allow at least 48 hours per bill for the calendaring process.

So, don’t be looking for Son of SB 1811 to get dropkicked through the goal posts of law before midweek.

If the Senate adopts the same rules it used in the 2009 special session, it would not be able to permit introduction of bills outside the call. Moreover, a point of order sustaining a challenge on that basis would kill the offending legislation for the rest of the special session.

The one beginning today is the seventh to do so on the day after Sine Die, and only the fifth in more than 50 years to occur during the 20-day, post-regular session veto period. Fittingly, the late former Gov. Bill Clements called the previous one on June 2, 1987 … at 1:30 a.m.  It started at 11 a.m. and lasted one day.

Contrary to popular belief, lawmakers most likely will not be able to override vetoes of regular session bills during the next three weeks. It’s never been tried, according to those who track such things, so doing so now would be unprecedented. A special session vote to override probably is unconstitutional, they say, and almost certainly would be challenged in court. Nevertheless, it’s a safe bet there won’t be any vetoes issued till the 20-day, end-of-session deadline nears.

Some things about regular sessions don’t change when they become special. For example, members still get paid $600 a month, plus per diem and mileage. They can file constitutional amendments and confirm appointments.

There’s no minimum time limit on a special session. The bad news is there’s nothing to prevent a governor from repeatedly calling a legislature back for another one; the good news: a special session can’t last more than 30 days.

One hopeful historical note: In 1923, the First Called Session of the 38th Legislature met for all of one hour, according to the Legislative Reference Library’s website. No legislation was enacted.

By Patrick Graves Reprint with permission from the Quorum Report


About Jennifer Bergland

Director of Government Relations at the Texas Computer Education Association
This entry was posted in Budget, Legislature, Special Session and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The 82nd Legislature Goes into Special Session #1

  1. Pingback: Instructional Materials Allotment Revived in Special Session | TCEA Advocacy Network

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