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State Rep. John Raney files joint resolution to change Texas Constitution

“Nearly 40% of our session is nonproductive in my opinion.”
Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 5:34 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) -State Rep. John Raney filed a House Joint Resolution (HJR 152) to modernize the operations and procedures of the Texas Legislature.

The Texas Legislature convenes in regular session every odd-numbered year for 140 days, and during the first 60 of those days our lawmakers, according to the Texas Constitution, are prohibited from passing bills relating to non-emergency items.

“Nearly 40 percent of our session is nonproductive in my opinion,” said Raney.

According to the Representative, the provision was added to the Texas Constitution in 1930, when the provision made sense, but today the provision doesn’t really work with the Texas we know now.

The provision has been in place for 91 years and Raney believes enough is enough. It’s time for the legislature to get to work for all 140 days.

“We need to get to work, and I don’t know why it hasn’t been done previously,” said Raney. “There are 19 states with this legislation in effect and some of those states meet annually and we don’t. We meet every two years for 140 days. I think we can accomplish all that we can do, perhaps without even any special sessions.”

To achieve this goal, he filed the house joint resolution Friday. The legislation proposes various requirements to make all 140 days “working” days. One of those is organizational meetings in December.

“That will give the speaker 30 days to come back on the second Tuesday in January, which is our typical starting date,” said Raney. “He will have time to have chosen his committees and made committee assignments and we can go right to work instead of sitting there for 60 days wasting taxpayer money.”

The Representative said he already has support for the legislation on both sides of the aisle.

Since this legislation is a constitutional amendment, it has to pass both chambers with a two-thirds vote. If it passes, voters can expect to see it on the ballot in the next general election.

This is the full statement released March 12 from Representative Raney’s Office:

Austin, TX – Today, State Representative John Raney (Bryan/College Station) filed HJR 152 that would allow Texans to vote on a constitutional amendment to modernize the organization and procedures of the Texas Legislature.

Currently, the Texas Legislature convenes its regular session on the second Tuesday of January in odd-numbered years for 140 days. A provision in the Texas Constitution added in 1930 prohibits legislators from passing bills relating to non-emergency items in the first 60 days, which translates to approximately 40% of a session’s duration.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 1930 population of Texas was 5.84 million, compared to 29.36 million today. There were minimal methods of communication, few easily-traveled roads, and limited modes of travel. In that era, the 1930 provision made sense. It no longer makes sense today.

Nineteen states have a constitutional provision that requires their Legislatures to meet prior to the first day of the session for organizational purposes, and even more states hold informal meetings of this nature.

HJR 152

· Removes the provision that prevents action on legislation within the first 60 days of a regular session;

· Requires an organizational meeting in Austin in December preceding a regular session to include swearing-in of legislators, election of officers, and adoption of rules; and

· Establishes the first day of a regular session as the deadline for committee assignments by the presiding officer of the Senate and the House.

“As representatives of the people, it is crucial for us to make the best use of our limited time in Austin. Organizational standards of the Texas Legislature have not been updated in more than 90 years. I think it’s time we let the people of Texas have a say in the efficiency of their government,” said Rep. Raney.

To stay up to date on the progress of HJR 152 or for more information, visit www.capitol.texas.gov.

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