Local Bills in the Legislature
The 88th Legislature’s regular session began on January 10 and will continue to run through May 29, 2023. With the filing deadline of March 10 being less than 30 days away, as of today, 4,177 bills have already been introduced.
The legislative process for local bills involves the consideration of draft legislation that affect only a discreet community or area rather than the entire state. As local bills are being filed across the state, it leaves many to wonder what happens next.
In introducing a local bill, a legislator will file the local bill with the chief clerk of the House or secretary of the Senate, whichever is appropriate. For 60 days after the Legislature opens, there are little restrictions on legislators wishing to file bills; after those 60 days (or, after March 10, 2023), the introduction of a local bill requires the consent of at least four-fifths of those representatives present and voting, if being introduced in the House, or of at least four-fifths of the members of the Senate, if being introduced in the Senate. The bill will then move through the Legislature until either dying somewhere along the vine or being signed into law.
In considering a local bill at the most elementary of levels, there are two requirements that the Legislature will examine: those found and listed in Article 3, Sections 56 and 57 of the Texas Constitution.
While the shorter of the two sections, Article 3, Section 57 contains important notice provisions that require all local bills to be published at least thirty (30) days prior to the bill’s introduction into the Legislature, Chapter 313 of the Government Code has detailed instructions on what needs to be included in the notice and how the notice should be published.
Article 3, Section 56 restricts the Legislature from passing a local law which authorizes one or more actions from a laundry list of specific topics. Just to illustrate a few examples, the list contained in Article 3, Section 56 prohibits the Legislature from passing or authorizing any local law that:
- Regulates the affairs of counties, cities, towns, wards, or school districts.
- Authorizes the laying out, opening, altering, or maintaining of roads, highways, streets, or alleys.
- Incorporates cities, towns, or villages, or changing their charters.
- Exempts property from taxation.
- Incorporates railroads or other works of internal improvements.
Later sections of Article 3, Section 56 go on to say that – in addition to the list of prohibited local laws – the Legislature is also barred from enacting any other case where a general law can be made applicable.
Despite the challenges that can arise during the legislative process, local bills remain an important tool for addressing issues and concerns specific to the communities of Texas.
Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice.