If you’ve followed previous posts in our beginner’s guide blog series (which you can scroll down to revisit!), you may know that the Texas Legislature only holds its regular session from January through May of every other year. But the reality of how our laws are made is actually a little more complicated–in part because legislators start working early, in what’s called the interim.
As you’ll see in the definition below from the Texas Legislative Glossary, the interim is the term for the period between regular sessions of the Texas Legislature. During this 18-month interim period, the leader of each legislative house (meaning the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Lieutenant Governor in the Senate) can ask existing legislative committees to conduct research on certain topics. There are also interim select committees that are appointed for this specific purpose during this time.
Although laws aren’t made outside of the session, the hearings that these committees hold during the interim can inform what lawmakers will focus on starting in January. The hearings are also a great opportunity for experts, advocates, impacted people, and the public to get legislators’ attention while they’re not quite as busy as they are during the regular session.
One thing to note: the legislators that meet for these interim hearings may not be the exact same lawmakers who will sit on the committees during the regular session next year. In the upcoming elections on November 8, the entire Texas House (150 members) will be up for election. Additionally, because the Senate districts were redrawn after the most recent census, all 31 seats in the Texas Senate will be holding elections this year as well. Some current lawmakers might lose their seats to challengers, while others will be retiring ahead of the next session.
In the past few weeks, the TCJE team has been at the Capitol for different hearings related to the issues we focus on. We know how important it is to make our voices heard as often as we can, and this is especially true because we’re usually providing a perspective that lawmakers rarely hear–that of people who’ve been arrested, incarcerated, or otherwise personally affected by the criminal legal system.
Below are some links where you can check out our explainers on these recent hearings, watch our team’s testimony, and more!
House Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee [August 9, 2022]
- TCJE’s explainer on the August 9 hearing
- Video of Policy Analyst Sarah Reyes’ August 9 testimony on the crisis in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) and why we should close youth prisons
- Video with background on what’s happening in TJJD
House Corrections Committee [August 10, 2022]
- TCJE’s explainer on the August 10 hearing
Key quote from Women’s Fellow Cynthia Simons on family-friendly, prison visitation practices
- Video of Cynthia’s August 10 testimony on how current prison visitation practices hurt both incarcerated parents and their children
- Photos of system-impacted women from the Texas Women’s Justice Coalition and Statewide Leadership Council who testified at the Corrections hearing
House Criminal Justice Reform, Interim Study Select Committee [August 24, 2022]
- TCJE’s explainer on the August 24 hearing
- Video of Sarah’s August 24 testimony on raise the age, Second Look, and more juvenile justice issues
If you want to keep up with what’s going on at the Texas Capitol during the interim, you can sign up for alerts about specific committees on the Texas Legislature Online website. We’ll also be sharing more info on our social media whenever our team is testifying!
Writing this beginner’s guide series is always a learning experience for me–and 2023 will be my third legislative session with TCJE! If these blog posts are helpful to you, too, I’d love to hear what you want to learn about next. You can leave a comment on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to share your thoughts!
Previous posts in this series:
A Beginner’s Guide to the Texas Legislative Session
Beginner’s Guide: The End of the Texas Legislative Session