What happens when the Texas Legislature is Not in Session?
The Texas Constitution establishes that the Texas Legislature will meet every other year (biennium) for 140 days each. So, what do state senators and representatives do the other 364 days until the next regular session begins?
Yes, there can be a special session, or more than one, should the governor deem it necessary. The session can be focused on any issue. Still the governor must designate the topics, and bills can only be passed on those topics. A special session is 30 days, and there is no limit to the number of special sessions called. Special sessions are usually not called too often in Texas. And, good thing, because legislators are only paid $600 a month. They need time for an additional career! In 2021, the governor called three special sessions and included topics such as transgender athletes and Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
Interim charges are issued by the Speaker of the House for House Committees and by the Lt. Governor for Senate Committees. Interim committees dig down on the specific charges by hearing testimony and public comments on topics that may not have been solved during the regular session. Interim hearings can be held within the Texas Capitol or other areas of the state as might be helpful. The Lt. Gov and Speaker issued many charges for 2022, including issues on border security and weatherizing the Texas electricity grid.
Meeting with Constituents and Businesses
Some of the most valuable time spent during the interim is one-on-one or small group meetings with elected officials and/or their staff. It’s an excellent time to meet with your state representative or state senator. When you reach out to schedule the meeting, be specific about what you want to discuss. Arrive organized and use your time wisely. You may speak on any issue of importance to you, or you may choose to meet with him or her to build your relationship for future conversations.
The interim also provides an opportunity for businesses and non-profits to share information about your industry. Details on how laws are helping or hurting your employees, sharing policies that encourage economic growth, or providing examples of laws benefiting the community can lead to productive discussions and future legislation. Legislative staff and elected officials have more time to drill down on subjects during the interim. You can set yourself up for a more successful regular session by jump-starting work in the interim.
The interim may be slower than the regular session, but it can be time well spent when you are focused and strategic on your issues. Use the time intelligently.