The 181-member body has 140 days to finish its business — the only constitutional requirement for which is to pass a budget — unless the governor decides to convene one or more special sessions.
With a litany of items on its plate and themes in the backdrop, Republicans control 19 of 31 Senate seats and 86 of 150 House seats. Second to the budget and related to it, the Legislature has a projected $27 billion in projected surplus dollars, the result of an economy rebounding from pandemic-era shutdowns along with consumption taxes magnified by inflation.
Before all that and more can be handled, the new members must be sworn in and the 88th Legislature’s House speaker must be elected. It is expected that current Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) will secure a second term holding the gavel, but his challenger state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) has promised to take it to a floor vote.
New Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson, a former senator for three decades, will make the jump across the Capitol rotunda to administer the speaker election.
In the following few days, the House will debate its chamber rules for the session — the feature of which will be whether to allow the appointment of Democratic members as committee chairs. Tinderholt has made that issue the focal point of his challenge.
On the Senate side, things will be much calmer as the body elects a president pro tempore. Last session, that was Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury).
If conducted like the 2021 session, Gov. Greg Abbott will address both chambers after the members are sworn in and the speaker is elected.
It’s the first regular session after Democrats broke quorum not once but twice in 2021, triggering what would amount to three special sessions called by Abbott.
This is also the third session immediately following an Abbott election win, and his fifth overall. The governor’s inauguration is set for January 17.
In the coming weeks, Abbott will release his list of emergency items with which he’s tasked the body. The chambers will then announce their own respective slates of priority bills.
For the first 30 days of session, committees may not consider legislation save for the governor’s emergency items. All bills save for a select few types must be filed by the 60th day of session, which is set for March 10. After that point, floor votes on second and third readings may be conducted.
Once the voting stage is reached, bills must be read and passed on three separate legislative days — a requirement that the Senate will sometimes expedite by convening and adjourning multiple times over several minutes on the same calendar day.
A comprehensive review of the legislative process can be found here.
Sine die, the final day of the regular legislative session, is set for Monday, May 29.
See the full roster of members of the 88th Legislature, and find your representatives here.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.