The current Texas Constitution mandates both a balanced budget and a "part-time" legislature that is only able to meet in a 140 day regular session in odd-numbered years. As a result, the rules of...
The current Texas Constitution mandates both a balanced budget and a "part-time" legislature that is only able to meet in a 140 day regular session in odd-numbered years. As a result, the rules of Texas Legislature requires the first 60 days of the regular session to address the state's budget. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage for members of the Legislature? Is this an advantage or a disadvantage for the people of Texas? Why or why not?
The answer to this is, of course, a matter of opinion. There is no way to objectively say whether this is good for the people of Texas. What we can say objectively is that this system makes it harder for the legislature to get much done and for legislators to be expert in the subjects on which they make laws. It is up to each person to decide whether they think this is good or bad.
As you mention, the Texas legislature is a part-time body. It meets only every other year and members are not paid enough to allow them to be full-time lawmakers. This means that legislators have to hold other jobs and cannot spend all their time learning about the issues that face the state. Therefore, they are not able to become expert on a wide variety of topics.
In addition, when the legislature does meet, almost half of its time is spent on the budget. This means that there is relatively little time left over for the legislature to attend to any other topics that are important for the state. Since they have little time, they cannot make as many laws concerning important matters other than the budget.
My own view is that these are bad things. In particular, it is bad that the legislators cannot become expert on many issues. Because they are not expert, they have to rely on other sources of information when bills come before them. Practically speaking, this means that they will rely more on lobbyists to tell them about these issues. This is, in my view, bad for democracy.
One could argue that the system is good. It allows/forces legislators to be regular people who might therefore be more in touch with issues that affect the average Texan. It also prevents the government from enacting as many laws as it otherwise might. Some people will say this is good because it minimizes government interference in the economy and in people’s lives.
Thus, there are good and bad points to this system and it is up to each individual to decide whether the good outweighs the bad.
It is really a matter of opinion if having a balanced budget and a part time legislature is a good thing for the people of Texas and for the legislators themselves. People who want a limited government would say these requirements are a good thing. The part time legislature will be limited in what it can do and accomplish, increasing the likelihood of a limited government. It would also be required to avoid having a deficit budget, which is appealing to some people.
On the other hand, some people believe the legislature has too many things to do. By having a part time legislature, the legislature won’t be able to do all of these things, especially if 60 days of the 140 days are spent on the budget. These people would argue that this hurts the people in Texas.
From a legislator’s point of view, a part time legislature means the legislators likely won’t be devoting all of their time to issues that impact the people in Texas. They likely will have to work at other jobs in order to have a decent income. This could lead to uninformed or misinformed decisions being made. On the other hand, this may suit a person who wants to serve but doesn’t want to commit to a full time role. It might be possible that they might not be able to commit to a full time role for various reasons.
I am of the belief that a legislature should work full time and not have specific limits placed on it in terms of time for discussion of issues or having a balanced budget. There are so many things a legislature needs to do in order to be effective for the people in a state. If it is a full time job, the legislators should be knowledgeable about all the issues they face. Additionally, there are times when a deficit budget may be necessary. Preventing this from happening could hurt the state.
It really is a matter of opinion if a legislature should be full or part time and if the law should require a balanced budget.