Texas Legislature: Organization


Both chambers of the Texas Legislature have several committees, where most legislative work takes place.

There are five different types of committees in the Texas Legislature:

  • Standing committees (also known as substantive committees) are permanent committees established to handle legislation in a certain field.  Standing committees range in size from 5 to 29 members in the Texas House of Representatives and 5 to 15 members in the Texas Senate.  Rules limit legislators to serving on no more than three standing committees during one session.
  • Interim committees are established to study a particular policy issue between regular sessions; their findings are reported to the chamber during the next legislative session.
  • Select committees are ad hoc committees established for a limited period of time to address a specific problem.
  • Procedural committees are committees that deal with internal operations (like scheduling legislation to go to the floor).
  • Conference committees are temporary committees that are formed to negotiate differences on similar pieces of legislation passed by the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate.

Each committee is overseen by a committee chair and committee vice-chair, which are appointed by the chamber’s presiding officers (thereby strengthening the positions of the presiding officers).

Some initial committee appointments are based on expertise that comes from a legislator’s occupational background; this may create a conflict of interest.  Once appointed to a committee, state legislators usually return to the same committee positions each session they serve in the Texas Legislature; this enables them to become well informed on a given subject.


Each chamber of the Texas Legislature has a presiding officer that oversees operations within that chamber.  The presiding officers have several powers that cause them to be influential actors in the legislative process, including:

  • appointing all committee chairs and vice-chairs
  • appointing half of the members of substantive committees
  • appointing all members of conference committees
  • recognizing (or choosing not to recognize) members who wish to speak on the floor

Speaker of the House

Seal of the Texas House of RepresentativesThe presiding officer of the Texas House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House.  The Speaker of the House is a member of the Texas House of Representatives (elected by a single-member district) who is chosen to preside over the chamber via majority vote within the Texas House of Representatives at the beginning of a regular session.  As a member of the Texas House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House exercises powers associated with serving as presiding officer and votes on bills.

Lieutenant Governor

Seal of the Texas Senate

The presiding officer of the Texas Senate is the Lieutenant Governor.  Unlike the Speaker of the House, which is a member of the Texas Legislature and chosen by the chamber’s membership, the Lieutenant Governor is not a member of the Texas Senate; it is part of our plural executive.  As such, the Lieutenant Governor is chosen by majority vote in a statewide election every four years (not the Senate membership), and the Lieutenant Governor cannot vote on bills except in the case of a tie.  The Lieutenant Governor is considered the most powerful Texas state office and is regarded as a major force in state politics and a dominant figure during legislative sessions.

“No-Party” System

Throughout most of our state’s history, Texas has been a one-party state.  The Democratic Party held the majority in both chambers of the Texas Legislature and controlled most executive positions through the second half of the 1800s until the late 1900s (with the exception of Radical Reconstruction, when the Republican Party briefly took control of state government), at which point in time control shifted to the Republican Party.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the Texas Legislature, each chamber has traditionally been organized largely on the basis of ideology, not party affiliation.  Although the Texas Legislature is becoming increasingly partisan, ideology continues to be of more significance, which is reflected by the organization of our legislative chambers (presiding officers routinely select committee chairs and vice-chairs from both parties, not just their own party) and in the way our legislative process works.