Texas State Legislature meets for its third special session

Part-time legislatures are standard for most states, calling on citizen legislators to do the people's business. Photo: Daniel Mayer

DALLAS, August 1, 2013 ―Texas governor Rick Perry has convened a third special session of the state legislature to pass a transportation bill to deal with the state’s transportation infrastructure. Transportation issues were also on the agenda in the previous two special sessions called this summer.

The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days during odd numbered years. Additionally, The governor may call a special session which can only deal with the matters that he puts on the agenda. Each special session is limited to no more than thirty days.

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Texas, like most states, has a part-time legislature made up of citizen legislators rather than full-time legislators. Compensation for Texas Legislators is $7,200 a year, plus a $150 per diem for regular and special sessions. In regular session, legislators receive $28,200. By the end of the third special session, they will have earned an additional $13,500 per diem. Legislators also receive health benefits and qualify for pension after serving for eight years.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), only 10 states have truly full-time state legislators, where they estimate that legislators spend 80% or more of their time on legislative business, including session, constituent services, interim committee work, and election campaigns.

Most states have opted for some variation of the citizen legislature, where legislators must have income outside of their salary as state legislator, although compensation and work requirements vary greatly among states.

The NCLS qualifies Texas and 22 other states as being hybrid legislature, where the legislature reports that they must work two-thirds of a full time job. Seventeen states are considered true part-time legislatures, spending on average about 54% of the time as a full-time job.

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The states that fall on the farthest end of the spectrum of part-time legislatures are Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and New Hampshire. These legislatures meet for a less than 100 days a year in regular session every two years. The Wyoming State Legislature is limited to 60 days every two years, 40 days in odd years and 20 days in even.

The New Hampshire State Legislature is the largest in the United States and the fourth largest English speaking legislature in the world, with one representative in the lower house per 3,000 citizens. Comparatively, Texas has one representative per approximately 113,000 people.

The ratio in the U.S. House of Representatives is one representative to more than 700,000 people. The number of representatives in the U.S. House has remained the same since 1913, when one member represented about 200,000 people.

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April Thompson

April Thompson is a writer and home educator. She has a background in pro-life political work, including speaking to national, state and local groups on life issues. April lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband and four children.

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