The Texas Legislature meets in regular session on the second Tuesday in January of each odd-numbered year. The Texas Constitution limits the regular session to 140 calendar days. The lieutenant governor, elected statewide separately from the governor, presides over the Senate, while the Speaker of the House is elected from that body by its members. Both have wide latitude in choosing committee membership in their respective houses and have a large impact on lawmaking in the state.
Only the governor may call the Legislature into special sessions, unlike other states where the legislature may call itself into session. The governor may call as many sessions as he wishes. For example, Governor Rick Perry called three consecutive sessions to address the 2003 Texas congressional redistricting. The Texas Constitution limits the duration of each special session to 30 days; lawmakers may consider only those issues designated by the governor in his "call," or proclamation convening the special session (though other issues may be added by the Governor during a session).
Any bill passed by the Legislature takes effect 90 days after its passage unless two-thirds of each house votes to give the bill either immediate effect or earlier effect. The Legislature may provide for an effective date that is after the 90th day. Under current legislative practice, most bills are given an effective date of September 1 in odd-numbered years (September 1 is the start of the state's fiscal year).
Although members are elected on partisan ballots, both houses of the Legislature are officially organized on a nonpartisan basis, with members of both parties serving in leadership positions such as committee chairmanships. As of 2011, a majority of the members of each chamber are members of the Republican Party.
From 1848 until Richard M. Nixon's victory in 1972, Texas voted for the Democratic candidate for president in every election except 1928, 1952, and 1956. In the post Civil War era, the Republican Party was virtually nonexistent in much of the South, including Texas. What little Republican support there was in Texas was almost exclusively in the free black communities. Some of the most important American political figures of the 20th Century, such as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice-President John Nance Garner, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn and Senator Ralph Yarborough were Texas Democrats. However, the Texas Democrats were rarely united, being divided into conservative, moderate and liberal factions that vied with one another for power.
Two of the most important Republican figures of the post-Civil War era were George T. Ruby and Norris Wright Cuney. Ruby was a black community organizer, director in the federal Freedmen's Bureau, and leader of the Galveston Union League. His protégé Cuney was a freed Texas mulatt. Cuney settled in Galveston and became active in the Union League and the Republican party and eventually rose to the leadership of the party. He became influential in Galveston and then Texas politics and is widely regarded as one of the most influential black leaders in the South during the 19th century.
Increasing Republican strength: 1960 to 1990
The rebirth of the Republican Party in Texas can be traced back to 1952, when Democratic Governor Allan Shivers clashed with the Truman Administration over the claim on the Tidelands, which subsequently led to his work in helping Dwight D. Eisenhower carry the state. Beginning in the 1960s, Republican strength increased in Texas,…