Texas Legislature: The Basics

The Texas legislature is a bicameral legislature consisting of an upper chamber (the Texas Senate) and a lower chamber (the Texas House of Representatives).  The Texas Senate consists of 31 members who serve 4-year, staggered terms (meaning half of the chamber is up for re-election every two years).  The Texas House of Representatives consists of 150 members who serve 2-year terms.  Texas legislators represent single-member election districts.

To serve in the Texas legislature, you must be a U.S. citizen, registered to vote, and meet the additional qualifications included in the table below.

Chamber Age Residency
Texas House of Representatives 21 years of age 1 year in the district

2 years in the state

Texas Senate 26 years of age 1 year in the district

5 years in the state

Even though our legislature is considered the most powerful part of our state government, its structure and powers reflect the belief in limited government, and it continues to function in a similar manner to the way that it did in the 1800s, based on the citizen legislature model that was popular at the time.

Citizen Legislatures

A citizen legislature is a legislature primarily made up of citizens who have full-time occupations besides serving in government.  “The benefit of a citizen legislature, at least in theory, is that lawmakers bring a variety of career and life experiences to the lawmaking process; unlike career politicians, they must live with the laws they create when they return” (Messerly and Rindels, 2019 ).  Common characteristics associated with citizen legislatures include

  • meeting part-time (i.e., for a certain number of months every year/every other year)
  • low compensation (with the goal of preventing the emergence of career politicians and ensuring only those who want to “give back to society” will run for office)
  • small legislative staff sizes / no legislative staff

The Texas Legislature has all of these characteristics!  it meets for approximately six months every two years; Texas state legislators are among the lowest-paid in the nation, receiving $600/month ($7,200/year) and $190 per diem (to cover lodging, food, and transportation) during regular sessions; and Texas state legislators have limited staff.