There is no existing statutory framework in Texas law specifically for conducting an independence referendum. There doesn’t have to be. All the pieces are currently there. They just have to be assembled in the one place where it matters―the Texas Legislature.
This comes in the form of a standard bill. It’s important to note that the Texas Legislature is a true part-time legislative body. They meet for exactly 140 days every other year unless called into a special session by the governor. In that 140-day period, they file and debate legislation over nearly every conceivable issue that impacts Texans. The Legislature files way more bills than ever get passed and it takes considerable work ahead of a legislative session to get enough momentum behind a bill to even give it a shot at passage.
The process begins by having the bill filed by a member of the House or Senate, plus a sponsor in the chamber opposite from the member who initially filed it. From there, it gets its first reading on the floor and is assigned to a committee. The committee chair schedules it for a hearing; sometimes they don’t if they are opposed to the bill, and it dies when the session ends. But, if the committee hears the bill and it is voted out of committee, it gets scheduled to be heard on the floor, or it doesn’t. The House and Senate each have their own rules for scheduling bills for the floor and, as has been the case in the Texas House, the chair of the Calendars Committee can use his or her power to kill a bill by refusing to move it along.
However, if it moves along, it gets debated on the floor and is then voted on. If it passes in one chamber, it moves to the other chamber and the process repeats until the bill is passed by both houses. At the end of the day, what any bill needs to pass is the support of 76 members of the Texas House, 16 members of the Texas Senate, the lieutenant governor, and the governor. From there it moves to the governor’s desk for his signature or a veto. While this may seem overly complicated, I assure you that it is actually more so. Yet every session the Texas Legislature manages to pass well over one thousand bills into law.