The Houston Pension Plan's Next Steps Explained
The Legislative Process: Conference Committees
With the Houston pension reform bill from the House and Senate heading to a conference committee, now is a good time to brush up on your knowledge of the legislative process.
A conference committee is formed to hammer out differences between companion legislation offered up by the House and Senate. In the case of the Houston bill, different versions of Senate Bill 2190 have been passed out of the two chambers. A House version includes several amendments not in the original Senate bill authored by Rep. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.
To tackle the charge to reconcile the bills, two presiding officers of the conference committee will appoint five members each from their respective chambers to serve on the committee. The Senate has a requirement in its rules stating that at least two of its conference members come from the Senate committee which the bill was reported. In the case of the Houston bill, that would be the Committee on State Affairs.
Although the conference committee will work to reconcile differences in the House and Senate legislation, the committee does have limitations. The conference committee may not alter, amend, or omit text that is not in disagreement. It may make additional changes only if the committee is directed to do so. As of now, there has been no word of the conference committee being directed to make changes outside of its task to harmonize the two bills.
After the committee has met and come to a conclusion on how the reconcile the bills, a report will be submitted to both legislative chambers for approval or disapproval. The report must be approved by at least three conferees from the House and Senate and must contain the text of the bill as approved by the conference committee, an analysis comparing the text of the compromise bill to both original versions of the legislation, and the signatures of the conference committee members who approved the report. A conference committee report is not subject to amendment but must be accepted or rejected in its entirety.
Want to learn more about the legislative process? Click the image to download the Guide to Texas Legislative Information from the Texas Legislative Council.
If the conference committee is unable to reach an agreement, the measure dies. If the conference committee report is acceptable to both legislative chambers, the bill is enrolled and signed by both presiding officers in the presences of their respective chambers. That's not the end of the road, either.
If a suggested compromise remains objectionable to either legislative chamber, the report may be returned to the same conference committee for further discussion, with or without specific instructions. The appointment of a new conference committee may be requested, as well.
The reconciled bill is then sent to the governor to sign into law, veto or allow to become law without a signature. The governor has 10 days to sign the bill or veto it. If the legislature is still in session and the governor vetoes the bill, the bill would return to the chamber it originated, in the case of the Houston bill, the Senate. A two-thirds majority in the House and Senate is required to override the veto. Or, if the governor fails to sign the bill and doesn't veto the bill with the 10-day period, the bill becomes law. If a bill is sent to the governor within 10 days of final adjournment of the legislative session, the governor has until 20 days after the final adjournment to sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without a signature.