Bills, bills, bills — 5,796 filed, to be exact. And the 82nd Legislature approved nearly a quarter of them, from legalizing noodling to cutting $15 billion from the 2012-13 budget. Data compiled from The Texas Tribune’s searchable bills app reveals what dedicated observers of the regular session witnessed: a breakdown in how to balance the budget and a ruling Republican Party. Check out the Trib’s visualizations to get a closer look at how bills fared in the upper and lower chambers and how each political party and committee fared.
Note: The graph and analysis on this page only look at the number of House and Senate bills active at particular points during the session and do not include resolutions.
The graph below shows the number of bills active on each day of the regular session. The filing of a bill adds one to the running total of active bills. For every bill that reached its final action for a particular day (whether it was sent to the governor or left to die in committee), one is subtracted from the total.
Select an area of the chart (by clicking and dragging) to take a closer look and zoom into that particular section of the session.
Of these 352 first-day bills, 282 ended up on the cutting-room floor at various stages in the legislative process. Nine bills became effective immediately, while 61 bills went on to await the governor's signature. Only five bills (SB 28, SB 40, SB 89, SB 100 and SB 158) made the long trip all the way to May 31 and the end of the regular session.
Once the session began, the number of active bills continued to grow at a faster and faster pace. On March 11 (the 60th day of the session and the deadline for filing bills), the number of active bills reached its peak: 4,627. From March 12 on, members of the House and Senate could only work with what had already been filed.
One more fun fact: Of all the bills sent to the governor's desk, only one, HB 2403 (also known as the Amazon bill), was vetoed during the regular session. On June 17, Perry vetoed 24 more bills and vetoed line-items from the appropriations bill HB 1.
The constitutional rules are designed to ensure that neither the upper nor the lower chamber has a distinct advantage when it comes to passing its priorities. Although differences between the House and Senate can clearly be recognized in the statistical outcomes of their bills, when looking at the breakdown of bill success, neither chamber comes out ahead. The House may have sent a greater number of bills to the governor, but the Senate sent a higher percentage of the bills it considered.
The House outnumbers the Senate 150 to 31, and representatives filed twice the total number of bills as senators. But on average, each senator filed more bills than each representative: 62 compared to 26.
The pie charts below represent all of the bills originally filed by each chamber. The outer and inner circles show proportionately the number of bills that died compared to the number of bills sent to the governor. Rolling over a section of the pie chart will tell you the percentage of bills authored by Republicans, Democrats or both that either died or were sent to the governor out of the total number of bills from that chamber.
Simple fact: Most bills fail. Visually, you can see this represented in the pie chart by the thickness of the outer circle compared to the inner circle. Nearly 80 percent of all House bills died this session. The Senate had a slightly higher success rate — only 70 percent of Senate bills died (which is why the outer circle of the Senate pie chart is less thick).
Even though Republicans had a two-thirds supermajority in the House, they filed fewer than two-thirds of House bills. House Republicans had an advantage when it came to passing their legislation. Only 73.5 percent of Republican bills died, compared to 81 percent of bills filed by Democrats. (We labeled a bill Republican, Democratic or bipartisan based on the party affiliation of the primary author or authors of the bill.)
Bipartisan legislation was most likely to be successful. More than a third of all the bills authored by Republicans and Democrats together earned approval from both chambers. The House filed more than six times the number of bipartisan bills than the Senate. For House Democrats, befriending Republicans with the advantage of a supermajority was often necessary to pass their legislation.
Republicans had a majority in the Senate as well: 19 to 12. It usually requires 21 votes to bring a bill up for debate, so senators needed to find support from both sides of the aisle. The pie chart shows the dramatic difference in success that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate had in passing their legislation. Senate Republicans may not have had a supermajority, but they blocked a higher percentage of Democrats' bills than their counterparts in the House did. The majority of the bills that failed were authored by Democrats, while nearly two-thirds of the bills sent to the governor were authored by Republicans. Senators also filed a smaller percentage of bipartisan bills than representatives.
In total, Republicans authored 57.8 percent of all the bills that were sent to the governor. They also authored 50.2 percent of the bills that failed. Only 26.4 percent of the 3,018 Republican bills and 18.7 percent of the 2,427 Democratic bills filed throughout the session made it through both chambers.
In terms of success, the chambers balance each other out. In total, the 82nd Legislature sent 797 bills originally from the House, and 585 originally from the Senate, to the Governor.
Please note the data used to build these pie charts do not reflect the failure of bills vetoed by Gov. Perry on June 17.
The most heated rhetorical debates of the session — how to tackle a sweeping budget shortfall for the 2012-13 biennium, how to cut billions from public schools? — and the inability of lawmakers to negotiate solutions before the end of the regular session are clearly evident in the success or failure of bills coming out of House and Senate committees.
The Senate Finance Committee and House Appropriations Committee, which consider the hardball budget bills, had the lowest success rate. More than 90 percent of bills in each of those committees died before reaching the governor. The only committee with a 100 percent success rate was the Committee of the Whole Senate. They considered and passed only one bill — voter ID — which was declared emergency legislation by Perry.
The graphs below visualize how many bills from their respective chamber each committee considered. By clicking on the legend, you can zoom in to view only the bills that passed, were vetoed by the governor or died during the regular session. (Note: These graphs have been updated to reflect the bills vetoed by Perry on June 17.)
Of all the House and Senate committees, the House Public Education Committee considered the most bills (298) and killed the most bills (270). Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, who chairs the committee, failed on multiple occasions to pass his signature education finance reform bill, HB 400. Overall, 28 bills coming out of Eissler's committee were sent to the governor and none of the bills were vetoed. That is 9.4 percent of all the bills the committee considered. In comparison, the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, considered 126 bills and sent 25 of those to the governor. Ultimately, the failed debate on education finance reform helped propel lawmakers into an immediate special session.
By law, only the House is allowed to propose legislation to raise revenue. Representatives filed 295 bills that went through the House Ways and Means Committee, which considers revenue bills. Even in a session plagued by a revenue shortfall for the upcoming biennium, and a deficit in the current biennium, 85 percent of proposed changes to the tax code failed to win approval from both chambers. Perry vetoed two bills from the Ways and Means Committee. One of the bills, HB 2403, would have taxed online retailers, like amazon.com, for goods sold online to Texas residents.
In the Senate, bills coming out of the Finance, Public Education and Redistricting Committees had low rates of success. Not surprisingly, these are all hot topics in the special session. The State Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, killed the most bills coming out of the Senate: 161.
A couple of committee chairs singled themselves out with their success rates: Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, and Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland. The Business and Commerce Committee, chaired by Carona, sent the most bills to the governor, 69. The House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Ritter, sent the second-most bills to the governor: 68.
The table below is another way to visualize the breakdown of bills that either passed or failed for each committee.
Click on the headers to sort the table by that column and see which committee (and corresponding committee chair) had the most luck in getting legislation passed.