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
1.    Introduction

Legislative bodies carry a heavy burden in representative democracies, and the Texas legislature is no exception. Legislatures must provide avenues for the representation of the numerous and diverse interests in society, and then reconcile the inevitable conflicts in a process of law making and oversight. Legislative bodies are also required to strive to achieve fairness in the process, to function in ways that do not systematically provide unfair advantages to particular interests.

The constitutional design of the legislative branch and the political history of Texas have combined to make "the lege," as insiders and observers call it, a peculiar institution. The Texas Constitution creates a part-time legislature that meets for a relatively brief 140 days every other year. The members, so-called citizen legislators, work within a political culture with a strong suspicion of government and a long history of accepting the involvement of wealthy business interests in politics.

Together these institutional and cultural forces have acted to restrict to some degree the ability of the legislature to fulfill its representational role. Additionally, the history of racial exclusion until well into the mid-twentieth century and a long period of one-party rule by the old Democratic Party has meant that the institution has struggled to comprehensively represent (or fairly reconcile) the diverse interests of a dynamic and growing population.

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