From The Texas Newsroom:
They’re coming to legislate you, Barbara.
As the legislative session comes to a close, state lawmakers are trying everything to get their bills past the finish line, including raising the dead.
Dead bills, that is.
More bills die than live during any given session. Lawmakers introduced about 10,000 bills and resolutions during the current session alone, and only about a third will become law.
But all is not lost.
Lawmakers are going to have to get creative – and lucky – if they want to see their dead legislative priorities to the finish line.
Many do successfully perform some end of session necromancy, said the Texas Politics Project’s Joshua Blank. You could even call it … the Night of the Living Lege.
“There’s always a way to revive a bill,” he said.
Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said even the deadest of bills have a chance to be reanimated. Like zombies, they might just come back a little different.
“While some bills have died, that doesn’t mean that their content necessarily has died,” he said.
At a certain point in the session, lawmakers can’t introduce any more bills. But lawmakers can still attach their legislation – or parts of it – to another, living bill, either through a committee substitute – basically a committee from the opposite chamber’s take on a bill – or a final-hour compromise in a conference committee, where House and Senate members meet to hash out their differences on a particular measure.
Most likely, it will be done by amending the bill when it comes up for a vote.
Let’s say a bill reaches the House or Senate. Lawmakers can try to bring their legislation to life by adding the text of their dead bill as an amendment to a living bill.
If the bill passes and goes on to be signed into law then, well, it’s alive.
But it’s tough to raise a dead bill. As Blank explains, amendments can’t just be attached to any bill.
“It has to be related to the bill’s subject,” he said.
Lawmakers then have to get their colleagues on board to pass the amendment and get the opposite chamber to sign off on it, too.
As an example, Jones referred to the controversial “bathroom bill” of the 85th legislative session back in 2017. The bill would have barred “transgender Texans from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity,” according to The Texas Tribune.
“There was an attempt to try to revive it by attaching it to a bill that related to administrative rules for county governments,” Rice said.
The author of the administrative-rules bill was none too pleased. He decided to stop the bill from making it onto the House bill, forever burying the bathroom bill (for that session, anyway).
Sometimes frankenbills do make their way into law, like a 2019 measure related to sex education in schools. It died in the Texas House but was resurrected when it was attached to a school finance proposal.
As Blank put it, “A bill is never dead until the legislature goes home.”