January 9, 2013
By Manny Fernandez
AUSTIN, Tex. — Long before lawmakers prepared to gather at the sand-colored Capitol here on Tuesday for the opening day of the legislative session, State Representative Richard Peña Raymond had already filed a little-noticed bill to drastically change not only how they conduct business, but also how often.
Texas is one of only four states whose legislatures convene in regular session every two years. Lawmakers in Texas meet in odd-numbered years only — as do legislators in Montana, Nevada and North Dakota — while those in the 46 other states hold legislative sessions yearly, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Mr. Raymond’s bill would require the Texas Legislature to meet in regular session in odd-numbered years and to hold a budget session in even-numbered years. The move would mean annual meetings and budgets, an idea that has been debated for decades but has long been viewed with suspicion in a place that prizes small government, low taxes and deregulation.
“As big a budget as we have, as big a state as we are, as diverse of an economy as we have, we really should be looking at annual budgets,” said Mr. Raymond, a Democrat from Laredo and a former member of the Appropriations Committee, which writes the budget. “There’s no business in the private sector that does two-year budgets. It’s a very outdated idea.”...
“It’s very fast-paced and tumultuous and inefficient to have a short 140-day session every other year in a state as big and as complex as Texas,” said Calvin Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “You’re trying to budget and anticipate revenues and the need for expenditures 30 months out, and that’s very difficult to do.”...