Legislative history of Texas: how long are sessions and how many bills are usually passed?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lawmakers call the 88th legislative session at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday.

Senators from 31 states and representatives from 150 states will meet for 140 days, officially starting Tuesday at 12:00 noon.

The regular session will end on May 29, but Governor Greg Abbott could potentially call special sessions after that date. By state law, special meetings can last a maximum of 30 days, but the governor has the right to call as many special meetings as he wishes.

The legislature meets every two years in odd years. The regular session has lasted 140 consecutive days since the 1960s. Prior to this, regular sessions ranged from 45 days in 1863 to 177 days in 1949.

Including special sessions, the 12th Legislative Session was the longest in state history, at just 353 days. This session included a 17-day “preliminary” session in February 1870 for Texas to ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Since 1965, each regular session has lasted 140 days. Since then, out of 29 legislative sessions, 19 have been held in at least one special session. 71st session in 1989-1990 ended with six special sessions in addition to the regular session for a total of 292 days.

How many bills usually pass?

As you can see from the chart below, the number of bills filed per legislative session has grown significantly.

In the 1800s, and even as recently as the 1940s, it was not uncommon for sessions to end with fewer than 2,000 bills submitted. By comparison, in 2009, there were 12,415 applications for the 81st Legislative Session.

Of course, not all bills are adopted. In 2021, the last session, state legislators introduced a total of 11,867 bills in regular session and three subsequent special sessions. Of these, 4508 were adopted, which is about 38% of all submitted bills. Gov. Abbott vetoed 20 of them, according to the legislature’s online statistics.

So far, lawmakers have already submitted more than 1,600 bills in this session. Senators and state representatives can continue to file bills until March 10, the 60-day deadline.

When averaged over the last 10 full sittings, legislators typically submit about 11,500 bills, of which about 5,800 are passed—about 50% of the total.

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