The Flavor of the 86th Texas Legislature

November 26, 2018

Chris Masey
Senior Public Policy Specialist
Director, Center for Children and Special Education Excellence

Here it comes! The 86th Texas Legislative Session is right around the corner, convening on Tuesday, January 8, 2019. Some things we're thinking about...

Pre-filed bills: 579

Pre-filing gives bills a stronger chance of passing, but of course, nothing is guaranteed, and we can expect plenty more to be filed once session begins. More about the content of this first wave: Bill filing for the 2019 session begins with legislation on marijuana, taxes, and daylight savings (Texas Tribune)

Speaker of the House Race: Over?

With the retirement of Joe Straus (who had served as House Speaker since 2009), there was a scramble of representatives who wanted his job. Representative Dennis Bonnen had initially not declared that he was running, but surprised everyone by throwing his hat into the ring. Within a week, he appeared to have at least 109 votes of support (out of 150 house representatives). If things go according to Rep. Bonnen's playbook, the House of Representatives will quickly elect him Speaker and move on to House logistics (rules, committee appointments, etc.). A stalemate in electing a speaker can greatly slow down an already ponderous Texas House process.

Money, Money, Money

Texas has a lot of debt—and a lot in the bank. Some considerations:

Things to think about the next time you hear about cutting taxes...

Midterm Elections

The elections for the US Congress had some interesting shifts, due to incumbent retirements and several upsets. The Democratic party now controls the House of Representatives and will control the all-important House committee chairs. Voters participated in record numbers and chose several progressive democrats over several long-serving Republican representatives.

However, for all of the talk of blue wave or the hype around Texas' Senate race, Statewide Texas elections for the most part favored incumbent Republicans. There will be no change in the elected officials who have the top jobs of Governor, Lt. Governor, and other elected Agency officials.

In the Texas Legislature, there were also several retirements that left open seats and competitive races throughout the state for both parties. The Texas Senate now has more balance after the election with the Democrats picking up two seats (19 R and 12 D), and likely one more after the special election to replace Sylvia Garcia.

The Texas House, much like the US Congress, also will see a large number of new legislators. It is important thing to keep in mind that 18% of the Texas House will be freshman legislators who may or may not know much about the issues important to you. They may struggle to pass their own legislation, but they will all have important floor votes that could influence bill passage.

Overall, the balance of power in the House has changed slightly with 12 more Democrats (83 R and 67 D); in comparison to last session's 95 to 55 ratio.

Republicans and Democrats in the Texas Senate and House, 2017 and 2019
2017   R D Total
  Senate 21 10 31
  House 95 55 150
  Senate 19 12* 31
  House 83 67 150

*Garcia's seat is still open, but will most likely be filled by a Democrat

Pie chart showing: 74 incumbent Rs, 49 incumbent Ds, 18 new Ds, 9 new Rs in the 2019 Texas Legislature.


Most (82%) of the legislators who served in the house for the 85th Session will be back for the 86th (right).

Incumbents total 123 (82% with 74 R and 49 D), while freshmen total 27 (18% with 9R and 18 D). Note that 1 democrat who reclaimed his seat is counted as a freshman.


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