June 12, 2019
Texas House Breaks GOP Era Bill Passing Record
Despite Higher Success Rate on Craddick Watch
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
|Texas House Production
Session, House Bills & HJRs Passed
Total Legislation Filed, Success Rate
House Production Count
Under 4 Speakers Defies
Smaller Government Line
The GOP likes to fancy itself as the party that's fighting to reduce the size of the government that it's always accusing the Democrats of trying to grow. But the Texas House has been an anomaly to the trend when the legislation filing and passage counts under three Republican speakers and the last Democratic leader in the lower chamber are calculated and sized up.
The Legislature approved an average of 819 House bills and joint resolutions out of 3,574 that were submitted for consideration during Democrat Pete Laney's five terms as the speaker.
But the number of House measures that were filed and passed during Republican successor Tom Craddick's six years in the dais jumped to 3,893 and 895 on average respectively.
The House stepped up the bill submission pace after the GOP's Joe Straus unseated Craddick in 2009 when state representatives dropped a record 4,976 bills and constitutional amendment proposals into the hopper - a mark that has yet to be surpassed. But House members ended up filing 4,371 on average in Straus' five terms as the presiding officer before the number vaulted to 4,912 in 2019 during current GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen's first session on the job.
Lawmakers approved 819 House bills and HJR's on average during five regular sessions with Laney at the helm from 1993 to 2003 - a biennial success rate of 22.9 percent based on the total number that had been tossed into the mill during that span of time.
But the Craddick House had a higher success rate at 23.4 percent on average when the number of measures that cleared the Legislature after being initiated in the west wing are factored together. The Legislature approved an average of 18 percent of the House bills and joint resolutions that were tossed on to the assembly line during Straus' five regular sessions with the gavel.
Lawmakers passed nearly 20 percent of the bills and proposed constitutional amendments that were conceived in the House on Bonnen's watch this year.
The most ironic aspect of the numbers above arguably is the fact that the House bill success rate was higher under Craddick despite his reputation as the most partisan speaker in modern Texas history. Bonnen - like Laney and Straus - has created an atmosphere of bipartisanship that would explain why 976 House measures cleared the Legislature this year - a high mark for a singular session with Republicans running the show in the west wing for the past 16 years ago.
The Texas House had its most productive regular session in 16 years of Republican rule in terms of the sheer number of bills and joint resolutions that cleared the Legislature in 2019 after originating in the lower chamber.
With the restoration of unity as GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen's guiding mission in his debut in the dais, the House turned out to be the breeding ground this year for 976 measures that were either sent to Governor Greg Abbott's desk or the voters as proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.
That represents a whopping 39 percent increase over the number of House bills and constitutional amendment proposals that Texas lawmakers approved two years ago when Republican Joe Straus had been leading the chamber in his fifth and final term as the speaker.
The number of Senate bills and joint resolutions that state lawmakers passed this year was down about 10 percent compared to the upper chamber's output tally in the 2017 regular session. The Legislature gave its final stamp of approval to 463 bills and proposed constitutional amendments that state senators initiated this time around.
Lawmakers had approved 509 Senate bills and SJRs in Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's first regular session as the chamber's presiding officer in 2015. The Senate production count inched up to 517 in Patrick's second session at the helm two years ago.
Almost 20 percent of the legislation that had been initiated in the House ended up emerging from the regular session that ended late last month. That's an 11 percent increase over the successful bill and joint resolution count that the House posted in Straus' first regular session as the chamber's top leader 10 years ago.
The House bill success rate was highest in the Straus House in the 2009 regular session when the Legislature approved 876 measures that had authors in the Capitol's west wing - 100 fewer than the 2019 tally. The lower chamber had more Democrats that year than it did at any other point in the Straus stint as speaker. The Republicans had a 76-74 edge over the Democrats in the Straus debut as the presiding officer. The Democrats had 67 House seats this year - the most that they've had on the west side of the rotunda since Bonnen's predecessor took over 10 years ago.
The Legislature approved an average of almost 788 House bills and joint resolutions during Straus' five regular sessions with the gavel - or 18 percent of the total number that had been filed during that span of time.
But the successful House legislation count had been highest from a percentage standpoint during Straus' second regular session as the speaker when almost 19.91 percent of 800 bills and resolution that had been submitted for consideration eventually cleared the Legislature in 2011.
During Bonnen's first session as the west wing king, lawmakers ended up approving 19.87 percent of the bills and constitutional amendment proposals that were conceived in the House in 2019.
The initial prevailing sentiment might be that bipartisan leadership like Straus displayed and Bonnen has continued in sessions with more Democrats on the roster paves the way for more legislation to pass. But the Legislature had approved a higher number of House bills and HJRs on average during Midland Republican Tom Craddick's three regular sessions in the speaker's office than it was with Straus at the helm after the San Antonio Republican wrestled the gavel away from the veteran West Texas lawmaker.
Lawmakers adopted 895 House bills and joint resolutions on average during Craddick's three terms as the first GOP's first speaker since the Reconstruction period in the wake of the Civil War. The successful House bill count in the Craddick era peaked at 965 in the 2007 regular session that ended with an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow him. That's only 11 pieces of legislation short of the mark that was set this year on Bonnen's watch.
The Legislature approved an average of 23 percent of the bills and proposed constitutional revisions that were filed in the House during Craddick's three regular sessions as the speaker. But state representatives only filed 3,893 measures on average when Craddick had been leading the chamber compared to the Straus House average of 4,371.
House members dropped a total of 4,976 bills and joint resolutions in the mill in 2009 with Straus as a first-term speaker compared to 4,912 that were filed in the lower chamber for the regular session that adjourned 16 days ago.
The share of successful Senate bills and joint resolutions fell to its lowest point in Patrick's three regular sessions when less than 18 percent of the measures that were added to the assembly line in 2019 cleared the Legislature this year. The high mark in the Patrick Senate had been set during the current lieutenant governor's first session in the chair when almost 24 percent of the Senate bills and SJRs that had been filed were eventually approved.
The Legislature has approved an average of 21 percent of the measures that senators have filed during Patrick's three regular sessions as the presiding officer in the east wing.