The Texas Legislature is in full swing. And, while lawmakers debate a flurry of bills ahead of sine die, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.
Today's question comes from Eric Staib:
Greg Abbott seems to make the news more often than governors in other states I've lived in. How powerful is the Texas governor compared to other states?
Jennifer Stayton: With KUT News in Austin, I'm Jennifer Stayton. It's Tuesday morning and that's the time each week when we check in with KUT Senior Editor Ben Philpott for a closer look at what's happening at the Texas Capitol during this legislative session. Good morning, Ben.
Ben Philpott: Good morning.
JS: Also during this legislative session we've been hearing from listeners who want to know ... they have some questions about things going on at the Capitol, and we've got a really interesting question from somebody recently I want to read it to you. So the questioner says Greg Abbott – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott – "seems to make the news more than governors in other states I've lived in." Now, I don't know where this person has lived before. But the questioner goes on to say, "How powerful is the Texas governor compared to other states?" So what would you say about that?
BP: The quick answer is Texas does have a weak governorship. The way it was set up was for the Legislature – specifically, people like the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House, who control the Senate and House in the Legislature – for those people to have a little bit more control in terms of setting what bills can get passed and what bills can make it to the governor's desk. But I would say that if you're an effective weak governor, you are in the news a lot, because what you have is a weak governor is the bully pulpit. And if you are not in the news, if you are not talking about what you certainly hope that the Legislature does or things that you might veto if the Legislature sends it to them, then you're an even weaker weak governor.
JS: Well, then, ultimately doesn't the buck still stop with the governor, if you will? Because if a bill makes its way through the House and the Senate and then to the governor's desk, the governor can still veto it.
BP: Not only can he veto it, but the way our legislative session is set up and the way our veto rules are set up, the governor usually vetoes bills about a week after lawmakers have left Austin. And lawmakers cannot come back together as a legislative body unless the governor calls them back, and when he does, they can only do it based on what he tells them they can work on.
JS: That's for a special legislative session.
BP: So that's a really long way of saying there is no veto override authority really here in the Texas Legislature.
JS: But as we saw with previous Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was governor before Greg Abbott, sometimes it's not necessarily the powers of the office, but it's longevity.
BP: Right. What that allows you to do is have a majority of people that you have appointed. This is a governor power to be able to appoint people to boards and agencies all across the state. If you then have a majority of people running a different state agency or running a board that you have appointed, you essentially then have a little bit of power within those agencies as well.
JS: Senior Editor Ben Philpott, keeping us updated on what's happening at the Texas Capitol during the Texas legislative session and how the Texas government works. Thanks so much, Ben.
BP: Thank you.
JS: You can always find more news at KUT.org.