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Summary of Legislation: Under current law, the governor becomes unavailable to discharge the duties of office and temporarily gives up executive authority when traveling outside of Texas. This legislation allows the governor to continue functioning as the state's chief executive when traveling anywhere within the 48 contiguous states for a period of up to seven days. This bill also requires the governor or acting governor to give notice of unavailability to the next person in the line of succession any time unavailability is anticipated.
Analysis: This bill grants more flexibility to the Governor to execute the powers and obligations of office. Currently under the Texas Constitution the governor is considered "unavailable" when he leaves the boundaries of Texas. This bill would authorize the governor to discharge the duties of office from anywhere inside the continental United States for a period of up to seven days.
Concerns: The committee analysis of HB 829 notes that this bill “removes the requirement that the president pro tempore of the senate have held that office when the governor and lieutenant governor first become unavailable in order to act as governor under the Emergency Interim Executive Succession Act.” This raises the possibility that in the event of an emergency executive succession, the Senate may bypass the sitting president pro tempore and appoint someone else to hold that office and succeed to the office of governor or lieutenant governor. This makes the line of succession less transparent.
Recommendation: HB 829 should be amended to restore the requirement that the president pro tempore of the senate have held that office when the governor and lieutenant governor first become unavailable in order to succeed to either of those offices in the event of a vacancy. Such an amendment would make the HB 829 more in line with its Senate companion (SB 292). In lieu of an amendment, the House may wish to offer a committee substitute that simply adopts the Senate language from SB 292.