Reading Statutes and Bills

Parts of a Bill

Introductory Language

The standard features of a bill include the heading, the caption, and the enacting clause, which are referred to collectively as introductory language.

  • Heading

    The first line at the top of the first page of every bill is the heading, sometimes referred to as the "byline." The heading indicates the bill author's name, the chamber in which the bill was introduced (H.B. for a house bill and S.B. for a senate bill), and the bill number.

  • Caption

    Below the heading is the caption (also known as the title), which is required by Section 35, Article III, Texas Constitution, to be included in every bill. Since the caption gives legislators and other readers an immediate explanation of the bill's subject matter, it is the most important part of the introductory language. The caption usually includes the phrase "relating to."

    For a complete discussion of the title or caption, see Section 3.03 of the Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual.

  • Enacting Clause

    Section 29, Article III, Texas Constitution, requires every bill to include an enacting clause in the exact language shown in the example above: indented, in all capital letters, and ending with a colon.

Substantive Provisions

Since the bill is the vehicle for enactment of law, most bill provisions add, amend, or delete statutory provisions. Following a bill's introductory language are the substantive provisions as discussed in the earlier section Parts of a Statute: short title, statement of policy or purpose, definitions, principal operative provisions, and enforcement provisions.

Some of a bill's substantive provisions, however, do not amend a statute section and are discussed below in further detail.

  • Short Title

    A short title is neither required nor appropriate for most bills but sometimes is included to provide a convenient way of citing a major, cohesive body of law that deals comprehensively with a subject. Some short titles are not introduced as an amendment to a particular statute, but are found only in the bill.

    SECTION 1. This Act shall be known as Jacob's Law.

  • Statement of Policy or Purpose

    A statement of policy or purpose is neither required nor appropriate for most bills but may be included when a substantial body of new law is introduced or when the operative provisions of a short bill do not clearly indicate what the bill is intended to accomplish. Like some short titles, some statements of policy or purpose are found only in the bill.

    SECTION 4.01. LEGISLATIVE INTENT OF NO SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE. This Act is enacted under Section 43, Article III, Texas Constitution. This Act is intended as a codification only, and no substantive change in the law is intended by this Act. This Act does not increase or decrease the territory of any special district of the state as those boundaries exist on the effective date of this Act.

  • Repealers

    Another way bills can amend the law is by repealing existing statutory provisions. A repealer cites the portion of law to be repealed, is typically found near the end of a bill or bill article, and may appear as a bill subsection or an entire bill section.

    Be cautious — repealers can make substantive changes.

    SECTION 4. The Automobile Club Services Act (Article 1528d, Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes) is repealed.

    SECTION 10. The following sections of the Occupations Code are repealed:

    • (1) Section 110.256;
    • (2) Sections 401.2535(h) and (i); and
    • (3) Section 402.154(h).

    For a further discussion of repealers, see Section 3.11 of the Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual.

Procedural Provisions

There are several types of procedural provisions. Some, which are of temporary significance only, are not incorporated into the codes or revised statutes but do appear in the session laws.

  • Severability Provisions

    There are two types of severability provisions: severability clauses and nonseverability clauses. Their purpose is to resolve the question of whether, when part of a statute is held to be invalid, the remainder of the statute is invalid.

    Although severability clauses still occasionally appear in Texas bills, there is no practical need for them since Sections 311.032 and 312.013, Government Code, provide that all statutes are severable unless specifically declared otherwise.

    SECTION 3. SEVERABILITY. If any provision of this Act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of this Act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this Act are declared to be severable.

    Nonseverability clauses make clear that parts of a statute are meant to be treated together and to rise and fall together under a constitutionality challenge. There are general nonseverability clauses, which apply to all of the provisions of an act, and special nonseverability clauses, which apply to specific provisions.

    SECTION 3. NONSEVERABILITY. Section 1 of this Act, prohibiting the manufacture of widgets without a license, and Section 2 of this Act, imposing a tax on the manufacture of widgets, are not severable, and neither section would have been enacted without the other. If either provision is held invalid, both provisions are invalid.

    For a further discussion of severability and nonseverability clauses, see Section 3.13 of the Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual.

  • Saving Provisions

    A saving provision "saves" from the application of a law certain conduct or legal relationships that occurred before or existed on the effective date of the law.

    One of the most common saving provisions applies to criminal or civil offenses.

    SECTION 9. The change in law made by this Act applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. For purposes of this section, an offense is committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurs before that date.

  • Transition Provisions

    A transition provision provides for the orderly implementation of legislation to avoid the confusion that can result from an abrupt change in the law. A common type of transition provision provides instruction for the transfer of powers and duties from one agency to another. Another directs an agency to adopt rules or procedures required by a general substantive provision.

    Both types can be found in the following example.

    SECTION 5.03. . . .

    (b) In accordance with the transition plan developed by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation under Subsection (a) of this section, on January 1, 2008:

    (1) all functions and activities performed by the Texas Transportation Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation relating to tow trucks, towing operations, or vehicle storage facilities immediately before that date are transferred to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation; . . . .

    SECTION 5.04. Not later than April 1, 2008, the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation shall adopt rules relating to an original application for a permit or license under Chapter 2303, Occupations Code, as amended by this Act, and Chapter 2308, Occupations Code, as added by this Act.

    For a further discussion of transition provisions, see Section 3.12 of the Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual.

  • Effective Date Provisions

    The Texas Constitution establishes basic requirements for the effective dates of bills as follows:

    No law passed by the Legislature, except the general appropriation act, shall take effect or go into force until ninety days after the adjournment of the session at which it was enacted, unless the Legislature shall, by a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each House, otherwise direct.

    Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution

    Below are several standard types of effective date provisions:

    Alternatively, a bill may have no effective date provision, in which case it is effective on the 91st day after adjournment.

    For a further discussion of effective date provisions, see Section 3.14 of the Texas Legislative Council Drafting Manual.