Texas Legislature: Powers

Our Texas legislature is one “of granted rather than plenary powers” (May, n.d.).  This means that the Texas Constitution of 1876 specifically outlines the powers of the Texas Legislature — and the Texas Legislature only has those powers that are specifically granted to it.  The powers of the Texas Legislature fall into two categories: legislative and non-legislative.

Legislative Powers

The Texas Legislature is given the authority to propose and vote on:

  • bills (proposed laws)
  • resolutions (statements of opinion on a matter), and and
  • joint resolutions (legislative documents that either propose an amendment to the Texas Constitution that voters may choose to ratify at the ballot box or ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution)

NOTE:  Joint resolutions require approval in the form of a 2/3 vote in favor of them in both legislative chambers.  This applies to both joint resolutions that are proposing amendments to the Texas Constitution and those ratifying amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Non-Legislative Powers

The Texas Legislature has constituent (or amendment) powers: it ratifies amendments to the U.S. Constitution on behalf of our state and proposes amendments to the Texas Constitution.

The Texas Legislature also has electoral powers.  The Texas House of Representatives makes the official declaration of a winner in state executive elections.  The Texas Legislature was also given authority to settle election disputes, when necessary.

The Texas Legislature has investigative powers: there are legislative committees (such as the House General Investigating Committee and, at times, interim or select committees) that have jurisdiction over state bureaucratic agencies.

As we will discuss more when we look at the state plural executive and bureaucracy, the Texas Legislature has administrative powers – in particular, it has the responsibility to engage in legislative oversight of the bureaucratic agencies that it creates to implement and administer state laws.  Committees can hold hearings to see whether bureaucrats are carrying out public policy as intended.  There are several factors, however, that make it difficult for the Texas Legislature to fully exercise these administrative powers, including the short regular session, the movement of members from one committee to another, and the shorter term of legislators compared to that of executive officials.

The Texas Legislature is also granted the judicial power of impeachment (similar to the U.S. Congress).  The Texas House of Representatives can bring articles of impeachment against state judicial and executive officials.  Once the Texas House of Representatives passes articles of impeachment, the Texas Senate holds the trial and determines whether to convict and remove a state executive or judicial official from office.