The Texas Legislature begins its biennial session today. If 2009 is a guide, lawmakers here are likely to introduce — and pass — more bills than virtually any other state. A key reason, however, is that Texas is one of only four states whose legislatures do not meet annually.
During the last session, Texas legislators introduced 7,951 bills and resolutions, according to data from the National Conference on State Legislatures, a research body. The only states with higher numbers were New York, with a whopping 15,980 bills (plus an unknown number of resolutions), and Illinois, with 8,742 bills and resolutions introduced.
As of last week, Texas lawmakers had filed 800 bills for the coming session.
Texas also followed through: In 2009 lawmakers here passed more bills and resolutions (1,726) than any other except Illinois (2,105) and Georgia (whose figure of 2,007 was padded by plenty of resolutions, which tend to do minor things like create special legislative study committees). The percentage of bills and resolutions passed in Texas, 21.7 percent, was nearly exactly the national average.
California's 2009 numbers were unavailable, but its 2008 figures show just 2,315 bills and resolutions introduced, and 930 of them passed — rather modest for the most-populous state.
Brenda Erickson, a senior research analyst with the NCSL, notes that lawmakers in other states may face constraints that Texas lawmakers don't. Colorado, for example, allows each lawmaker to introduce a maximum of only five bills (which helps explain why an impressive 62 percent of bills and resolutions get passed there). In addition, a number of states, including Virginia, allow unlimited pre-filing of bills but put limits on the numbers filed during session to speed the legislative process along.
In Texas, Erickson said, the number of bills filed has crept higher in recent years (as this chart created by the Trib's Matt Stiles also shows). Since 1991, on average, Texas lawmakers have filed 5,543 bills per session — far less than the 7,419 filed in 2009.
Update: A reader points out that the NCSL's statistics on Texas differ somewhat from those of the Legislative Reference Library.