© 2017 by Kevin Stewart

Texas Legislative Law Handbook

BY KEVIN STEWART

August 9, 2017

     On Monday, a point of order was sustained against SB 6, relating to municipal annexation. The point of order was based on Rule 8, Section 10(b) of the House Rules and Article III, Section 56(b) of the Texas Constitution. The rule prohibits "a bill whose application is limited to one or more political subdivisions by means of populations brackets or other artificial devices in lieu of identifying the political subdivision or subdivisions by name." However, the rule does not prohibit a bill with a bracket that "bears a reasonable relation to the purpose of the legislation."

     Texas courts have wrestled with this constitutional issue before, and they've developed a few complicated tests to determine if a bill violates the constitution. These tests are laid out in detail in Drafting §6.6 of the Handbook. While the tests themselves can be subjective, there are a couple of types of brackets that will almost always cause a bill to fail. First, do not use brackets that include...

July 27, 2017

     As promised, below is a chart that shows the frequency with which each rule was cited in a point of order. The top six rules are listed below the graph. The chart does not include constitutional provisions, which are often called in conjunction with a particular rule. It also doesn't show the success rate of each rule. However, those details for the 85th, along with a description of each of the successful holdings, will be in the next edition of the Texas Legislative Law Handbook. Details and descriptions for the 84th are included in the current edition.

 For some context, here is the same chart for the 84th:

     This displays graphically what many expected. Attacks on captions (Rule 8.01) have gone up, while attacks on bill analyses (Rule 4.32) have gone down. Also, the number of points of order against amendments to the appropriations bill (Rule 11.03) has gone up. The last big takeaway is that the most common points of order are getting more common....

July 8, 2017

    The special session is set to begin on the 18th of this month. According to the rules of each chamber, bills may be filed 30 days prior to beginning of the special session. However, the governor can call a special session at any time, without any warning. Technically, the special session isn't official yet, which is why legislators cannot file bills. The special session will be official, and legislators can start filing bills, as soon as the Governor makes his call.

    There is no limit to the number of topics a governor can designate in his call. 20 topics is ambitious, but not unprecedented. Rick Perry called a special session in 2005 to address 22 topics. Bill Clements called one to address 59 and another to address 72 topics. The call limits the subjects that the legislature can consider—sort of. In an old and frequently cited case, the Governor called a special session to "reduce state spending" and gave specifics on areas to be cut. The court held that a bill increa...

May 25, 2017

     On Saturday, the House debated SB 669, relating to the system for protesting or appealing ad valorem tax determinations. This is the bill that most of SB 2 was tacked onto in an attempt to avoid a special session. In the midst of a robust debate between Representative Bonnen and Representative Stickland, there were some interesting procedural maneuverings. Much of the debate was focused on a provision of SB 2 that was left out of Bonnen’s amendment. The provision at issue would have required a rollback election if a district exceeded a 5% increase in tax rates.

     Representative Shaheen filed an amendment to add this provision to SB 669. The amendment was never heard, never debated, and is not mentioned in the House Journal. The Speaker explained that the amendment was not germane to the bill. But there was no point of order called, nor was there an explanation of the ruling in the journal, as required by Rule 14, Sec. 8. So, what happened?

     The answer is n...

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