86th LegislatureIssuesState HouseTonight, Every Unheard House Bill Will Die

The looming midnight deadline was the mechanism for last session's infamous "Mother's Day Massacre." It remains to be seen what's in store this go around.
May 9, 2019
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Every two years, deadlines are set in place to ensure the Legislature finishes its business by day 140 of the Texas legislative session.

These deadlines are outlined in both the Texas State Consitution and the House and Senate Rules, and effectively define the pace at which legislators work.

For example, January 8 was the very first day of this legislative session. The Governor and Lt. Governor were both inaugurated on January 15, and though members begin drafting bills weeks, if not months in advance of convening in Austin, they were only allowed to file their bills until the 60th day of the session (March 8).

But perhaps the most notoriously looming deadline is the 122nd day; the day that all House bills not yet passed by the body or placed on a calendar slowly march toward their inevitable demise.

And today, May 9, is that day.

The Texan Tumbler

At midnight tonight, all House bills that have not been heard on second reading and passed out of the lower chamber will be declared dead. No more bills that originated in the House and have yet to be heard on the floor, no matter the importance or relevance of the legislation, will be passed through that chamber for the remaining 18 days.

This impending deadline has provided plenty of fodder for drama in past years, and perhaps no better example exists than last session’s “Mother’s Day Massacre.”

As the midnight deadline approached on May 7, 2017, members of the Freedom Caucus began actively trying to slow down debate, a method otherwise referred to as “chubbing,” in order to prevent the passage of the remaining bills placed on the calendar.

This response by arguably the most conservative members of the House came after months of public hostility between the Freedom Caucus and Republican leadership, led by former Speaker Joe Straus.

The Freedom Caucus, largely motivated by their displeasure in the session as a whole, unofficially “filibustered” for hours. Tempers flared, impromptu press conferences were held, and over one hundred bills were left pending by the time the clock above the speaker’s dais read 12:01 am.

Thus far, this session has been marked by an entirely different tone than the previous one, as members of both parties have largely fallen in line behind Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Whether or not sparks fly as the deadline looms tonight remains to be seen.

This deadline exists so that in the final days of the session, each chamber can turn their attention to the legislation that has either already passed in the neighboring body or returned from the other body with new amendments.

If the House chooses not to concur with amendments the Senate may have added to a given piece of legislation, or vice versa, the bill is then sent to conference. There, a committee of members from both the House and the Senate, appointed by the Speaker or Lt. Governor respectively, meet to determine what will make it in the final version of the bill.

This week, some of the first major signs of conflict among members arose after the proposed sales tax increase intended to “buy down” Texans’ property taxes fell apart. The demise of members’ legislation due to the midnight deadline could exacerbate those budding tensions depending on how important individual members view their own bills.

May 27 is the official last day of the 86th Legislature, but the possibility that Governor Abbott will call a special session to address unresolved priorities is never out of the question. 

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McKenzie Taylor

McKenzie Taylor serves as Senior Editor and resident plate-spinner for The Texan. Previously, she worked as State Representative Kyle Biedermann’s Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.