The Bills That Got Away: Proposed Laws In The Texas Legislature That Never Got A Hearing
As the Texas House of Representatives wraps up hearings on the last of its bills, some pieces of legislation slipped through the cracks — barely receiving a committee hearing.
While the classic "Schoolhouse Rock!" song “I’m Just A Bill” only touched on what happens to legislation that doesn’t make it past committee hearings, bills in the Texas Legislature often die throughout the session, barely even making their way to the chamber floors.
Before the session begins, lawmakers file bills that they want to become law. Once it’s filed, a bill is referred to a committee that will host debate and discussion on it.
Committees have a lot of bills to consider. To put that into perspective, this session, 4,671 bills were referred to about 30 committees in the state House of Representatives. With a legislative session that only lasts five months, some bills are bound to not even be discussed.
When a bill is referred and doesn’t get a hearing in its assigned committee, it dies.
After that, it's the responsibility of lawmakers to bring up that legislation again next session if they want it to become a law.
As of now, 73 House bills and 82 Senate bills have passed through both chambers. Whichever bills don’t make it past both chambers by the end of May won’t end up on the governor’s desk to become laws.
With the deadline for the House to consider its bills arriving this week, here’s a look at just some of the bills that didn’t have the support to make it far enough this legislative session:
- House Bill 88, one part of the George Floyd Act: In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), a Houston native, filed the act that would limit qualified immunity for police. It missed the deadline to pass out of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, as Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider reports.
- House Bill 447, on cannabis: This bill that would legalize the production, sale, and use of cannabis has attempted to make its way through the Texas legislature several times. It was referred to the Licensing and Administrative Committee, and was not considered. However, the House did pass HB 441, which lowered the criminal penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
- House Bill 1316, on whether people convicted of felonies can seek public office: A legal battle in Houston’s City Council District B led to Rep. Jarvis Johnson (D-Houston) filing a bill that would deem people with certain felonies eligible to run for a few public offices. The bill was referred to the House Elections Committee, but failed to make any movement after it was filed in January.
- House Bill 36, on Confederate Heroes Day: Some lawmakers attempted to abolish Confederate Heroes Day, especially with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement last year. Even with five co-authors, the bill failed to make its way out of the House State Affairs committee.
- House Bill 3871, on healthcare coverage: This effort to expand healthcare coverage in Texas had over 60 co-authors and was referred to the House Human Services committee, but didn’t get a hearing. Its companion bill in the Senate, SB 117, made some progress, but hasn’t gotten a hearing in that chamber’s Health and Human Services committee either.
- House Bill 4237, on casinos: Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin) filed a bill to allow casino gaming in the state under the Texas Gaming Commission. It was referred to the House State Affairs committee, but never got a hearing.
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