Welcome to Texas Politics!

View of the Capitol Dome (photo by Lynne Kelsey)

Tim McCormick

Many residents have lived most, if not all, of their life outside of Texas. Texas politics can be interesting, if not baffling, to those new to it, regardless of whether you are a native Texan or newbie to the state. So here is an overview of our political system.

Like all other states, except Nebraska, Texas has a bicameral legislature, or, in layman’s terms, we have both a House of Representatives and Senate in our statehouse. Laws are passed in the usual way, a bill in both chambers gets passed, they work out the differences, and pass it on to the Governor for his/her signature.

The Texas legislature meets only once every two years for 140 days, by mandate of our Texas Constitution. The exception to this is if the Governor calls a Special Session, which must address specific matters listed by the Governor when he/she calls the Special Session.

The first day of the regular legislative session for the 88th Legislature is Jan. 10, 2023, and the last day of the regular legislative session will be May 29, 2023.

Per the Texas Constitution, there are 31 Senators and 150 Representatives. After the last election in November, Republicans gained a seat in the Senate, giving them a 19-12 majority, and one additional seat in the House, giving them an 86-64 majority.

The Texas Senate’s leader is elected and is officially the Lieutenant Governor of Texas. It is considered to be the most powerful political position in the state and one of the strongest Lt. Governorships in the nation. Should our Governor vacate the office for any reason, the Lt. Governor would become the Governor.

The Speaker of the House gets elected by the members of the House of Representative. You would think this is a rather hum-drum event, and it usually is. However, this year it may be a little more bombastic. The reason is that the Texas Speaker, by recent tradition, has split the assignment of chairmanships of standing committees between both parties. The current House rules don’t specifically address the issue at all. However, there was a non-binding proposition on the Republican Primary ballot stating the practice of handing out chairmanships to Democrats should be banned, which passed with 81% of the vote. However, last session’s Speaker, Dade Phelan, has effectively been determined to be the next Speaker of the House, having won a caucus vote overwhelmingly.

Finally, the official salary of Texas legislators is $600 a month ($7,200 a year), plus a per diem of $221, which, for 140 days, comes to $30,940. So, barring any Special Sessions, we pay our legislators $38,140 a year.

Of course, you can learn even more, but that is the basics. For more info, some great resources are the official Texas State websites house.texas.gov and senate.texas.gov.