On Monday, Jan. 14, the Texas House of Representatives passed House Resolution 4 (HR 4). This resolution delineates the rules under which the House will operate for the entire duration of the 83rd legislative session.
The rules in HR 4 are substantially similar to the rules that the House adopts every session. However, there are some important differences in the areas of House floor procedure and digitizing the legislative process, as well as some noteworthy changes to the structure of certain committees.
The Legislature has been trending toward utilizing more technology in its operations. In line with this trend, the House rules for the first time established electronic witness affirmation forms to manage the flow of public testimony in committees instead of the paper forms that have traditionally been used. The House is also looking into the feasibility of allowing video testimony during committee hearings. If it is feasible, committees will be able to allow a person to submit video testimony so long as it does not exceed three minutes. However, unless a witness appears in person to testify, their testimony will not be included in the record.
There are three significant changes in the structure of House committees that will impact counties. The Government Efficiency and Reform committee will be hearing all matters related to “open government matters, including open records and open meetings.” Another significant change is that the Pension, Investments and Financial Services Committee has been split into two separate committees. One committee will be named the Pensions Committee, with jurisdiction over public retirement systems. The other committee will be named the Investments and Financial Services Committee and will have jurisdiction over banking issues and issues of local bonded indebtedness. The House has also created a new committee called the Committee on Special Purpose Districts, with jurisdiction over special districts such as public improvement districts. However, the jurisdiction of the Special Purpose Districts committee does not extend to counties or entities that are created by counties, such as hospital districts and emergency services districts. Those jurisdictions will remain with the County Affairs Committee.
Finally, there was a significant change made to the rules in the area of procedure used on the House floor. The House changed the standard by which a procedural point of order could be sustained against a bill for “clerical” or “typographical” errors. The new standard states that a point of order raised in violation of the rules may be “overruled if the purpose of that section of the rules has been substantially fulfilled and the violation does not deceive or mislead.” The effect of this rule is that it will be more difficult for House members to successfully “kill” a bill being heard on the House floor based on a non-substantive error.
View the complete rules as adopted by the House.