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?

Asked on by ibanchore

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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.

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