Why Texas has a Legislative Session once every two years
It is July, and here in Texas, people are looking for the last sad remanence of the beautiful Blue Bonnets that populate the roadsides and fields in early Spring. The school year has come to an end, and the temperature has climbed to 1,000 plus degrees. Lastly, because it is an odd year, our legislative session has come to an end. Forty-six State Legislatures out of Fifty hold annual sessions, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas are the only ones that meet once every two years. But why is this? Shouldn’t Texas want to be like the vast majority of her sister States, and hold regular annual sessions? No, and here is why:
What does it mean to pass a law?
When a legislative body gets together and passes a bill, and the executive signs it into law, a magical thing happens, something that you had the liberty to do, you no longer can. While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, this is often times the case. Let’s say that the Texas Legislature wants to pass a bill that makes chewing bubble gum illegal in Texas, and Governor Abbot signs that bill into law, you no longer can legally chew bubble gum in Texas! That is the effect of positive law on the people. Sometimes this is necessary, sometimes it’s not. But ask yourself this simple question: “How many laws do we need to pass in order to maintain society?”
Governments job is to protect our rights.
When we go back to our Founding document, the Declaration of Independence, we find spelled out that we have the familiar unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Every American has this portion of the Declaration memorized. But what does it say next? “That to secure these rights, (the unalienable ones mentioned a moment ago plus any other ones that we have by Nature) governments are instituted among men deriving their just power from the consent of the governed.” This is the purpose of government. We need the government to be empowered to make laws that protect our Natural rights; however, we don’t need governments to pass laws that trample our liberties. The former is necessary, the latter is tyranny. In this author’s opinion, Texas is generally pretty good at this, but not perfect. Two years ago, in the 87th legislative session, Texas passed the Heartbeat Act. We acted in a legitimate way to protect the lives of unborn babies, and that was both legitimate and good. Yet, a few years ago in the 86th legislature, we raised the smoking age from 18 to 21. This is tyranny. We are violating the liberties of 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old adults. For what?
What is the cost?
Another thing to consider is the cost. Currently, Texas stands at the bottom of the list in terms of pay scale for those serving as State Representatives, or State Senators. They earn a staggering $7,200 per year which pretty much amounts to the position being volunteer service as opposed to a job. This is especially true when compared to the yearlong sessions in the top three States, California ($114,000 per year), New York ($110,000 per year), and Pennsylvania ($90,335 per year). Now, Texas has not given its legislators a raise since the 1970s, and perhaps it is time to look at that, but that is for another article. But the point is that a State Representative, or State Senator from California, New York, or Pennsylvania has a lot more to “work for” than one does from Texas.
This is vitally important to understand. A person who is making either above six figures, or bloody close to it will have a lot more motivation to keep that job. The fastest way for a politician to “keep their job” is to be really active in writing bills and getting them signed into law. As we have seen above, this is not always a good thing, in fact, it rarely is. Texas has the right idea as far as how often the legislature is in session. It severely limits the amount of bills that can be signed into law. With less law, comes more liberty. We need laws, for as Madison famously said in Federalist 51 “Men are not angels”. While this is true, and we need laws to govern our behavior, most of the really good ones have already been thought up.