The 140-day marathon that is the Texas Legislature begins soon.

Thousands of bills will be filed. Hours of debate will happen. New laws will be passed. Eventually, it all affects you.

(Alexis Allison | Fort Worth Report)

“What the Legislature does intrudes into your individual life every day,” said Brother Richard Daly, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin. “The Legislature makes tax policies, educational policies, health care policies that affect individuals.”

To help navigate the sometimes confusing legislative process, here’s what you need to know about the Legislature and how you can make your voice heard.

What is the Legislature? 

The Legislature is the lawmaking body of the Texas government. Two chambers make up the legislative branch: the House and the Senate.

The House has 150 members, and the Senate has 31. Each chamber has its own leader, too. Beaumont Republican Dade Phelan is the House speaker, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, also a Republican, leads the Senate. Republicans control the Legislature. 

How a bill becomes law

Thousands of bills will be filed during the legislative session in 2023. Few will become law. Here’s a general overview of the process for how a bill becomes law:

  1. A legislator files a bill.
  2. The bill is then referred to a committee in the House or Senate depending on where it originates.
  3. The committee considers and holds hearings on a bill.
  4. If a committee approves, the bill will be placed on the calendar for the House or Senate.
  5. The House or Senate will consider the bill. Legislators may add amendments and debate it on the floor.
  6. If the bill passes both the House and Senate, the governor will consider signing it, vetoing it or allowing it to become law without a signature.

Each House member and senator represents a slice of the state’s nearly 30 million residents. State senators have, on average, 940,178 residents in their individual districts — a number higher than the 766,987 residents that each U.S. representative from Texas represents. House members have 194,303 residents in their districts, according to the Texas Legislative Council.

Texas styles itself as a citizen-led legislature, Daly said. 

“Our legislators are supposed to be part time and citizens, and that supposedly makes them more understanding (about) what an individual Texan needs and wants — but it doesn’t work out that way,” said Daly, who spent 30 years lobbying for and representing Catholic bishops.

Lawmakers earn $600 per month plus $221 every day the Legislature is in session.

The Legislature meets every two years for 140 calendar days starting at noon on the second Tuesday in January of each odd-numbered year. In 2023, lawmakers convene on Jan. 10 and the last day of the Legislature is May 29. However, the governor can call for a special legislative session for a slate of issues that he chooses.

Other state legislatures, like California’s, and even the U.S. Congress are in session for most of the year, every year.

Want to see what bills have been filed and to track their status? Visit the Texas Legislature Online where all bills and other documents as well as votes are publicly available. Additionally, you also can watch sessions of the House and Senate and committee meetings live.

Who represents you?

Four senators and 11 House members represent Tarrant County in the Legislature.

The four senators are:

  • Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills
  • Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford
  • Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury
  • Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound

Hancock and King represent most of the county, and their districts include Fort Worth. King and Parker, both House members, will be sworn in as senators on the first day of the Legislature.

The county’s House members are:

Unsure of who represents you? The Legislature has a look up tool where you can type in your address to determine your lawmakers. 

What are the issues?

The biggest issue the Legislature deals with every time it meets is assembling a budget that funds the state government for the next two years. In fact, approving a budget is the only thing the Texas Constitution requires legislators to do while in session.

Dates to know

Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023: First day of the 88th legislative session. The Legislature convenes at noon.

Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023: Inauguration of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Friday, March 10, 2023: Deadline to file bills.

Monday, May 29, 2023: Last day of the 88th legislative session.

Work on the budgets for 2024 and 2025 has long been underway. The Legislative Budget Board and the office of the comptroller, the elected official in charge of estimating state revenue, have been building the budget so lawmakers are not starting from scratch.

Comptroller Glenn Hegar expects lawmakers will have more than $149 billion in general funds to appropriate — including a $27 billion surplus. Lawmakers also can tap into the $13.6 billion in the state’s savings account, commonly referred to as the rainy day fund. 

The Senate Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee each will assemble a version of the budget, hold a conference committee with members from both chambers and hash out a single budget that lawmakers will consider.

The surplus may pose challenges for legislators, said Daly, the political science professor.

“It’s much easier to draft a budget when you don’t have a surplus. If there’s a lot of money available, it’s a lot harder to bite the bullet and say this is what we have to do,” he said.

One issue where that challenge is emerging is property tax relief. Gov. Greg Abbott and the lieutenant governor both agree the Legislature must use the surplus to help taxpayers. However, they are seemingly divided on the details, The Texas Tribune reported.

As he campaigned for a third term, Abbott said he wanted to use half of the $27 billion surplus for property tax relief. Patrick, though, has cast doubt on Abbott’s approach, but he wants lawmakers to find creative ways to cut property taxes.

The state government does not levy a property tax. Local governments, such as the city of Fort Worth and Fort Worth ISD, do. School district property taxes tend to be the biggest portion of taxpayer’s bills.

Other issues likely to crop up this legislative session include:

  • Private school vouchers and expanded school choice.
  • Additional fixes for the state’s power grid, a priority for Patrick.
  • More funding for border security, law enforcement and school safety.
  • Mandatory minimum sentences for people who use firearms in a crime.
  • Revamping how state funding is determined for community colleges.
  • Election security and integrity.
  • Giving parents more power in their child’s education.

How can you get involved?

You do not have to be in the Texas Capitol to make an impact. 

Daly suggested residents need to stay in contact with their state representative or senator and do so on a regular basis. You can mail your legislator, call or even show up at their office and talk to their staff. Constituent services are a top priority for legislators, the St. Edward’s professor said.

All of that may sound simple and obvious, but it can have an impact. Daly pointed to low voter turnout as a reason why.

“Individual voters who do vote and who do maintain contact with their individual legislators can have some influence,” he said.

Sometimes, there is strength in numbers. Look for an interest group that aligns with your priorities, Daly said. For example, real estate agents have Texas Realtors and educators have the Texas State Teachers Association to lobby for and against laws.

“Joining together with like-minded people is even more effective than going to your legislators as an individual,” he said.

Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Jacob Sanchez is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. His work has appeared in the Temple Daily Telegram, The Texas Tribune and the Texas Observer. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University....