Comparison between Florida’s and Texas Legislative Frameworks
The United States of America is a federal republic that comprises of 50 states. The government of each of the 50 states is organized according to the respective State’s constitutional framework (The White House n.p). However, the constitution must be based on the federal government’s rules given forth in US Constitution. The constitution’s Section 1 of Article IV mandates that each state have an organized government (U.S. Const. art. IV, sec. 1). Usually, the legislative frameworks of all American states resemble that of the federal government, with each State having three arms of government: judiciary, executive, and legislature. Even though the government structure of the different states resembles that of the federal government, every State is at liberty to change the structure of its government to better serve its population by amending its constitution. Consequently, this provision creates differences and similarities in the government structure of the different states. These similarities and differences manifest in different areas. This essay discusses the similarities and differences between Florida’s and Texas legislative frameworks based on elements of history, constitutional amendments, elections, budgeting, lawmaker structure and composition, legislative sessions, and future changes.
Texas’ partisan makeup has shifted dramatically over time. From 1992 to 2003, the democratic party dominated the Texas House of Representatives. The Republicans then controlled the house up to 2016 (Abramowitz et al. 75). As of 2013, there were 577 members of the Democratic Party and 483 Republican Party members in the House of Representatives (“Texas State Legislature” n.p). Texas’s state government has become increasingly partisan over the last two decades. Texas’s House of Representatives and Senate were overwhelmingly Democratic in 1992, but between 1995 and 2003, the composition shifted, with more Republicans joining the ranks. For the past decade, Republicans have been the majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Texas is among the states that have seen a significant shift in congressional partisanship, with a shift of over 40% from one party to the other in the Senate and the House (Bullock 553).
Florida’s partisanship has not changed much since 1992, and the State’s legislature has not been split. Since 1992, the Republicans have been dominating the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Democrats have held the majority for only one year, while Republicans have held the majority for 19 years. Between 1992 and 2013, Republicans controlled 80% of the Senate. As a result, the Florida legislature has always been partisan and Republican-leaning. Both Texas and Florida can be associated with a more Republican history than Democratic history (“Florida House of Representatives” n.p).
Constitutional amendments are primarily concerned with either revising or adding to certain sections of the constitution to enable the State better manage itself. In almost all the states in the US, voter approval is considered necessary for any constitutional amendments to be considered valid. It is the duty of the legislature to see to it that the different proposed constitutional changes are put before the citizens for consideration and vote on them.
Compared to other states of the US, Florida has a wide variety of ways of placing amendments before the public. For the proposed amendment to go into force, it requires the support of 60% of the registered voters (Morse 1143). Usually, this is guided by Article XI of the constitutions, which specifies different ways to put up a proposed constitutional amendment to the voters for their consideration. Section 1 of Article XI of the constitution states that if 60% of the state legislature in every chamber agrees on a joint resolution, the proposed amendment can be put on a ballot box. In Section 2, thirty days prior to convening the sessions of 2017 and 20 years after that, the revision commissions of the Florida constitution were to meet and suggest either amendments or revisions of the constitution, which would be voted on statewide. Section 3 of Article XI allows the public to petition for changes to the legislation but with limited power. Before a constitutional amendment can be put up for a referendum, supporters must gather enough signatures from Floridians (8%) who cast ballots in the State’s prior presidential elections to meet the required threshold (Jameson and Marsha 417). Section 4 allows voters to enquiry on the ballot if a constitutional convention is necessary. The various proponents of the conventions must be equal to 15 percent of the presidential votes cast in the previous presidential elections to be placed on the ballot. In section 6, the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission meets every 20 years since 2007 to decide on proposed constitutional amendments that will be put to the vote by Floridians.
On the other hand, Article 17 of the Texas Constitution serves as guidance for implementing constitutional amendments in the State. According to this article, a constitutional amendment must be proposed by the state legislature in a joint resolution between the House of Representatives and the Senate for it to become known to the general public. The source of the joint resolution might come from any of the legislative branches. It must also be passed by at least two-thirds of each house’s members, which equates to at least 100 votes from the House of Representatives and 21 votes from the Senate (Bohac et al. 2). The joint resolution must provide the proposed amendment in a written form and give a specific date for elections. The joint resolution may comprise more than one proposed amendment in some cases. Each proposal is given a ballot number in such a situation, and the legislature may resubmit it if the voters reject it. The legislature has the power to convene a referendum on the constitutional change that has been proposed on any day. Usually, this is allowed as long as the election officials have enough time to send out notifications and print ballots. The legislature always makes sure that the wording of the ballot and a concise description of the proposed statement is provided to give a comprehensive understanding of the proposed amendment and sufficient time for the voters to agree with the amendment. The proposed amendments have to be published twice in the state newspaper that prints state notices 50 to 60 days before the election (Bohac et al. 2). The second notice should be published in the same newspaper in the subsequent week but on a day similar to when the first publication was published. This should be followed by a comprehensive copy of all amendments being sent to the County Clerk by the Secretary of State. The county Clerk is required to post display the notice on the courthouse lawn at least 30 days before the elections. A ballot explanation must be written by the secretary and authorized by the Texas Attorney General. A constitutional amendment is only effective when approved by the majority of the voters. The secretary of state tabulates the results of the state elections, and the Governor must go through a 15 to 30-day vetting process (Bohac et al. 2).
Florida’s election laws stipulate that 120 members of the State’s House of Representatives must be elected after every two even-numbered years (Doherty 921). Every member of Congress is chosen to represent a district. One must be at least 21 years old, have lived in Florida for not less than two years before the election, and reside in the district where he or she intends to serve as a member of the Florida House. Similarly, elections in Texas are also conducted after every two even-numbered years. A person may only run for the house in Texas if they are at least 21 years old and have lived in the State and district they represent for not less than one year before the year of election. Thus, it is evident that Texas and Florida have same criteria for an individual to qualify to be a candidate for the House of Representatives.
Texas and Florida’s legislative bodies also differ when it comes to elections. The Florida legislature has a term restriction of 4 terms. However, in Texas, the senate does not have any term limits. In the Texas House of Representatives, the longest-serving member is Tom Craddick, who has been a member since 1968. This implies that individuals can defend their legislative seats in Texas many times. Contrary, the legislature of Florida has a term limit of four. Usually, limiting the number of terms a person may serve as a member of Congress has the benefit of recruiting leaders who are really interested in serving the public interest rather than only serving their own interests. It also ensures a constant flow of new executives who bring in fresh ideas and enthusiasm to the organization. Thus, the Texas legislature has a lower likelihood of recruiting new leaders that have the drive and desire to represent their constituents’ interests compared Florida legislature. However, this has faced criticism where the critics argue that taking more time in the office allows leaders to acquire more experience and improve their skills, which leads to more productivity and efficiency.
The role of the House of Representatives in the state budget the two states is to pass balanced budgets, which shows how taxpayer money is used in different functions of the government (Lienert 116). For instance, it showcases how money is allocated in areas such as healthcare and education. The State of Florida operates on a budget that is prepared on a yearly basis. Florida’s budget cycle begins in July when the Governor delivers the budget instructions to the different state agencies. After that, in October, the various state departments submit their Governor’s budget recommendations to the Governor. The budget hearings for state agencies take place in September, with public hearings held in January and September. In May or April, the state legislatures consider the Governor’s budget proposal before voting to approve it. For the budget to be considered important, the majority must support it. Also, the budget must be balanced before it can be considered credible. As such, the Governor must ensure that he or she delivers a balanced budget. The lawmakers must also approve a balanced budget. Therefore, every budget that is enacted into law must be in accordance with its stated purpose. Florida typically budgets for three significant funds: Special Revenue Funds, General Revenue Fund, and the Major Special Revenue Fund (“Florida State Budget And Finances” n.p).
Unlike Florida, Texas operates on a budget prepared on a biennial basis. This implies that the budget in Texas is prepared after every two years. The budget instructions are sent to the different state agencies at the beginning of March. During the months of July and September, the state agencies hold public hearings and submit budget recommendations to the Governor for consideration and approval. A proposed budget from the Governor is then presented to state agencies on the 30th day of a regular session, and the budget is adopted in May. Just as in Florida, a simple majority helps approve the budget. However, contrary to Florida, the Fiscal year in Texas starts in July. Also, just like in Florida, in Texas, for a budget to be signed into law by the Governor, it has to be balanced (“Texas State Budget And Finances” n.p)
Lawmakers in Florida and Texas have several differences and similarities, which are worth mentioning when comparing the legislative frameworks of the two countries. One of the key similarities is that both states have two legislatures: the Lower House and Upper House. The upper house is the senate, while the lower chamber is the House of Representatives. Usually, the two houses work collaboratively to formulate policies for every State. Another similarity is that Filibusters are allowed in both states. This implies that members of Congress are at liberty to cause the Speaker to adjourn the discussion for a bill to a later date.
Although the houses of the two states are similar to each other, their composition is highly varied. The lower chamber of the Florida legislature consists of 120 members chosen in a general election, and the elected members of Congress can serve for four, two-year terms, after which they are barred from vying for the same position again . The composition of the Lower House of Texas differs from that of Florida. The Lower House of Texas comprises 150 legislatures who represent different districts, and the elected legislatures are elected every two years for two-year terms with no limits (“Florida House Of Representatives” n.p).
Also, the composition of the Upper houses of Texas and Florida’s legislative frameworks is different. Florida’s Upper Chamber (Senate) comprises 40 legislators. Citizens equally elect the senators during the general elections. Unlike the members of the Lower House, who serve a maximum of four two-year terms, senates in Florida serve a maximum of two two-year terms. The Upper House of the Texas legislation is made up of 31 members who represent various districts. The senators are usually elected every two years of the four-year without term limits.
Legislative sessions include the different sessions held by the senate, where the legislative businesses, including taxes, resolutions, and bills, are discussed. Legislative sessions are intended for lawmaking and formulation of policies that are utilized in state governance. This process is conducted by the legislatures, mostly the senate, since they represent the people’s interests. There are two types of legislative sessions: special and regular sessions. The special sessions are the meetings called by either the Governor or the legislature. Only matters raised by the legislature of the Governor can be discussed during special legislative sessions. On the other hand, regular sessions are the meetings held yearly by various legislative branches of the different states, which differ in the duration in which they last ((NCSL, n.p).
According to the Florida constitution, the legislators convene the two types of sessions. Usually, the regular sessions in Florida assemble the First Tuesday of the month of March every year, in odd-numbered years, and on the second Tuesday of the Month of January in even-numbered years. In Florida, regular sessions are limited to sixty days except in cases where more than three-fifths of the Congress members decide to the extent it. Section 3 states that the convening of the special sessions can be done as per the provision of law or according to Florida’s Governor’s proclamation.
On the other hand, Article III of the Texas constitution establishes when the State’s legislatures should hold legislative sessions. Section 5 of Article III states that legislatures shall hold a meeting every two years by establishing the law. Contrary to the State of Florida, in Texas, the Governor is allowed to create as many legislative sessions as he pleases.
The Future Changes
Based on the various elements discussed above, various recommendations for future changes are recommended for both Texas and Florida legislative frameworks. To begin with, Texas should adopt an annual budget cycle and do away with its currently used biennial budget cycle. It is recommended that Texas adopts an annual budget since it will assist in ensuring a continuous supply of funds for the ever-increasing needs of the people and the State at large. The currently adopted biennial budget cycle in Texas seems to limit the State in handling emergencies due to the fixed budget, which they have to work with for a prolonged period of 2 years.
Secondly, in relation to constitutional amendments, both Florida and Texas should provide citizens with platforms in which they can freely suggest constitutional amendments for the better future of these states. Public participation in this way allows citizens to offer their thoughts and ideas, which have a better possibility of influencing changes to the constitution, which might improve the estate’s overall operations.
The legislatures of the State of Texas should also be given the authority to convene special legislative sessions. This is because, in certain circumstances, they are able to comprehend some of the emergency situations that come up. This will assist in guaranteeing that the different sessions are completed on time and that any issues that arise are dealt with peacefully and in accordance with the law.
Overall, this paper compares the legislative frameworks of Florida and Texas in terms of history, constitutional amendments, elections, budgeting, lawmaker structure and composition, ethics, legislative sessions, and future changes. In relation to history, Texas’ partisan makeup has shifted dramatically over time. Contrary, Florida’s partisanship has not changed much since 1992. Concerning constitutional amendments, Florida, unlike Texas, has a wide variety of ways of placing amendments before the public. In terms of elections, Florida has a total of 160 members of Congress, whereby 120 are members of the House of Representatives, and 40 are members of the senate. On the other hand, The Lower House of Texas comprises 150 legislatures, and the upper house comprises 31 legislators. The role of the House of Representatives in the state budget in both states is to pass balanced budgets, which show how taxpayer money is used in different functions of the government. However, Texas operates on a budget prepared on a biennial basis, while Florida operates on a budget that is prepared on a yearly basis. In relation to legislative sessions, in Florida, a convening of the special sessions can be done as per the provision of law or according to Florida’s Governor’s proclamation, while in Texas, the Governor is allowed to create as many legislative sessions as he pleases. Recommendations for future changes are that Texas adopts adopt an annual budget cycle. Also, it is recommended that both Florida and Texas provide citizens with platforms in which they can freely suggest constitutional amendments. Lastly, the legislatures of the State of Texas should also be given the authority to convene special legislative sessions.
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