AUSTIN (Nexstar) — When the Texas state government was beginning, traveling by stagecoach from Amarillo to Austin took eight days, according to State Rep. Lyle Larson.
The San Antonio Republican said biennial sessions made sense back then, so legislators from across the state did not have to make the “arduous” trek each year.
Now in the 21st Century, Larson says it’s time state lawmakers convene annually, instead of the odd-year “up to 140 days” approach currently laid out by the state’s constitution.
Larson filed a proposal Tuesday for a constitutional amendment which would split up the time, up to 70 days yearly.
“In the past few years alone, our state has faced catastrophes and events that demanded an urgent response,” Larson said in a press release. “But the Legislature happened to be out of session, leaving the issues largely unaddressed.”
He argues in a tweet there are “no discernible reasons” for the current schedule, which he believes is “letting important state business languish while we wait for the pages of the calendar to fall.”
Under Larson’s proposal, dubbed “The 70/70 Plan for Texas,” the Legislature “could have real-time votes of confidence with regard to its leadership if any controversy arises.”
Larson suggests revenue projections could be made for a 12-month period instead of the current 24, “making our budgeting process significantly more accurate.” Costs to run the Legislature would be the same with the split plan as they would be with the biennial arrangement.
Lawmakers would convene from March through May under his plan.
This is not the only proposal of its kind. State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D- Laredo, pre-filed a proposal in November that called for a regular session in odd-years and a shortened budget session in even years. The budget session would not exceed 60 days, but lawmakers could extend it by 30 days. During the budget session, lawmakers would be allowed to consider bills focused on the state’s finances or “an emergency matter submitted by the governor in a special message to the legislature.”
Raymond’s plan calls for the budget session to convene in April.
Both plans would need Texas voter approval in a constitutional election if passed out of the Legislature.