The legislative process is a complicated road a bill makes to become a law. While the legislative process is similar in different states of the US, there may be some peculiarities in the ways every state approaches it. This paper focuses on the discussion of the legislative process of Texas based on Bill SB181, which was accepted the 87th Legislative Session. In particular, the paper discusses all the stages the bill had to go through to become an effective law on September 1, 2021.
Before commencing to the discussion of the legislative process, it is beneficial to overview the essence of Bill SB181. The bill was first filed to the Senate of the State of Texas on November 12, 2020. The idea of the bill was to suspend the driver licenses of people that have committed certain types of offenses. In particular, the bill offered to suspend the licenses of people that committed an offense under the Controlled Substances Act, a felony drug offense, misdemeanor drug offense, if the person has been previously convicted of a drug offense committed less than 36 months before the commission of the instant offense, or a felony under Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, that is not a drug offense (Tex., 2021). The people whose driver’s licenses were suspended could retrieve their licenses only under condition of receiving special training that can be received both online or in-person (Tex., 2021). The bill passed all the stages and was signed by the Governor on 14th of June, 2021, which was 6 months after the bill was introduced.
There are several steps that every bill goes through to become a law. First, it is crucial note that legislative branch meets every odd year to pass new laws. The session starts on the second Tuesday of January and lasts for 140 days (Texas House of Representatives, n.d.). Senators and representatives can introduce bills for the first 60 days of the session. After a bill has been introduced, a short description of the bill is read aloud so that members have an idea of what law is being introduced (Texas House of Representatives, n.d.). This is called the first reading of the bill. Bill SB181 was first read on March 3d, 2021 and referred to the criminal justice committee (Tex., 2021).
The Senate committee is the second stage of the legislative process in Texas. The committee examines the bill and schedules a public hearing, which helps to put a favorable or unfavorable verdict. During the second stage, the committee can offer correction and enhancement of the bill to ensure that it is coherent with the body of active laws in the state. After being reported as favorable by the senate committee, the bill is read by the senate for the second time and voted. During the second reading, the bill is read only by the caption and debated by the full membership of the chamber. Any member may offer an amendment, but it must be approved by a majority of the members present and voting to be adopted. The bill is accepted by the senate during the third hearing and released to the house of representatives. The second and the third reading of the bill are known to be the third stage of the legislature process. Bill SB 181 passed the Senate on May 3d, 2021 and released with a vote of 5 Ayes, 0 Nays, 0 Present not Voting, and 2 Absent (Tex., 2021).
The fourth stage of the legislature process is associated with a bill being reported out of House committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety. In the House of representatives, the bill goes through the same stages it goes through in the Senate. Bill SB 181 passed the committee and all the readings of the House of Representatives on May 24th, 2021 with a recorded vote of 9 Ayes, 0 Nays, 0 Present not Voting, and 0 Absent. With a bill passing the House, the fifth stage of the legislature process is finished.
The sixth stage of the legislature process is being signed by the Governor. A Governor can either sign a bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without the signature. Governor is allowed the days (Sundays excluded) to put a signature on the bill after it was presented. Bill SB 181 was signed by the Governor on June, 14th 2021, after which a bill becomes an act. The final stage of the process is Act being scheduled to take effect. The Act was scheduled take effect September 1, 2021, except Article 1 that took effect on the 91st day after the date the office of the attorney general published a certain finding in the Texas Register.
In conclusion, there are seven distinct stage of the legislature process, which were explained using the example of Bill SB 181. During the first stage, the bill was filed to the Senate, the second stage was associated with bill going through the senate committee, and the third stage was associated with being discussed by the Senate. The fourth stage was the discussion in the House committee, while the fifth stage is being discussed and voted by the House of Representatives. The sixth stage is being signed by the Governor, while the final stage is scheduling the date the Act would take effect.
SB 181, Texas Legislature Online, 87th Legislative Session, (Tex. 2021). Web.
Texas House of Representatives. (n.d.). How a Bill Becomes a Law. Web.