Thursday, January 27, 2011

Senate Springing into Action; House Will Have to Hustle to Keep Up

Article 3, Section 5(b) of the Texas Constitution provides:

"When convened in regular Session, the first thirty days thereof
shall be devoted to the introduction of bills and resolutions, acting upon
emergency appropriations, passing upon the confirmation of the recess appointees
of the Governor and such emergency matters as may be submitted by the Governor
in special messages to the Legislature. During the succeeding thirty days of the
regular session of the Legislature the various committees of each House shall
hold hearings to consider all bills and resolutions and other matters then
pending; and such emergency matters as may be submitted by the Governor."

Yesterday, the Senate suspended the constitutional order of business so that Senate committees can begin meeting next week. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has already appointed the members of the Finance Committee, which will begin budget hearings on Monday. Dewhurst stated the membership of the other Senate committees will be announced today or tomorrow, and presumably these committees will also begin meeting next week. Last night, the Senate passed and sent to the House the voter ID bill.

Only two new members were elected to the Senate for the 82nd Legislature as compared to 37 new members in the House. The House was also convulsed by a leadership challenge for 70 days after the November 2 elections. These dynamics positioned the Senate to drive the legislative process vis-a-vis the House, and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and the Senate are taking full advantage so far and springing into action.

House committee preference cards were due into the Speaker's office yesterday at 6 p.m. Traditionally, House committee appointments are released at the end of the last legislative day of the week. This would point to House committees being appointed by next Thursday, February 3. Expect the Speaker's office to feel pressure to meet this timeline, because the House is going to have to hustle to keep up with the Senate legislatively.