Texas Politics - The Legislative Branch
  1. Tradition and Modernity
  2. Looking Ahead
  1. Sessions
  2. Special Sessions
  3. Bicameral Structure
  4. Membership
  5. Compensation
  6. Terms of Office
  1. Formal
  2. Informal
  3. Party
  4. Gender, Race, Ethnicity
  5. Incumbency
  6. Age and Occupation
  1. Historical Perspective
Powers and Immunities
  1. Bills
  2. Resolutions
  3. Administrative Powers
  4. Investigative, Impeachment
  5. Immunities
Presiding Officers and Powers
  1. Senate Pres./Lt. Governor
  2. Speaker of the House
  3. Pro Tempore Positions
  1. Committees
  2. System Impact
How a Bill Becomes a Law
  1. Intro, Referral
  2. Committee Action
  3. Floor Action
  4. Conference Committee
  5. Governor's Desk
Citizens Legislative Power
  1. Constitutional Amendments
  2. Initiative and Referendum
10  Conclusions
  1. Reforms
  2. Citizen Participation
  1. Print-friendly format
  2. Key words and phrases
  3. Multimedia resources
  4. Lt. Governors table
  5. Speakers table
2.6    Terms of Office

Elections for both houses of the Texas Legislature are held every two years in even-numbered years (2002, 2004, etc.). Members of the Texas House of Representatives are elected for two-year terms, while Senators serve four-year terms. The terms of office in the Senate are staggered: approximately one-half of the membership is elected every two years. In contrast, the occupants of all seats in the House are elected every two years.

Staggering the terms of office in the Senate derives from a long history of parliamentary practice. In the American experience, staggering the terms of office for the U.S. Senate was rationalized by the framers of the Constitution as a means of reducing the disruptive impact of popular sentiment during political or economic crises. The framers feared the destabilizing consequences of replacing the entire Congress in a single election that happens to coincide with a period of upheaval.

The impact of this strategy in Texas is uncertain. The term for senators is not overly long at four years, and the vast majority of legislators come up for reelection every two years.

Some commentators have even recommended that terms be extended to six years for senators and four years for representatives (all staggered) because the short terms do not permit the development of expertise on legislative procedures and the substance of specific policy areas. The short terms also mean that legislators are constantly campaigning, instead of focusing on legislative matters. The constant campaign also puts legislators at a disadvantage in dealing with experienced lobbyists. [4]

4 Richard H. Kramer, et al. Essentials of Texas Politics, 7th Edition, p. 129.

Texas Politics:
© 2005, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin