Interim Update: November 2016

            We look forward to hosting more than 200 attendees at our Elected Prosecutor Course in Montgomery later this week. Due to the recent holiday plus that upcoming conference, this month’s update will be lighter on content than usual—but don’t worry, we made up for that with some good finishing quotes.

Winter is coming

         Can you believe that the 85th Regular Session is almost here? Pre-filing of bills began on Monday, November 14, and as of the middle of last week, legislators had already filed 686 bills and resolutions (of which we are tracking 202, which amounts to 29 percent of the total). There will be some intermittent filings over the holidays, and then bill filing will pick up again in January. The first day of session is Tuesday, January 10, 2017. (Gulp.)

How to track bills

            Technology is making it easier to keep track of what happens in Austin—although we’re not sure legislators always like that—and we can help you tap into that information. For legislation that amends the Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, or is otherwise a particularly important “bill to watch,” go to our Legislative web page and click on the relevant button on that page. (The tracking lists are updated every night.) Note, however, that those are just three of the 40 different tracking codes that we use to follow legislation, so don’t be alarmed if your favorite—or least favorite—bill is not in one of those main three tracks.

            If you want to track bills yourself using the state’s public website, search for them at www.capitol.state.tx.us, where you can create a free account and start your own tracking lists. We’ll do our best to ride herd on the thousands of bills that will be filed this session, but don’t be shy about emailing Shannon to let him know of your interest in/for/against a particular bill—that helps us know what you find important.

Interim reports

            As the interim between sessions ends, House and Senate committees are starting to release reports and recommendations on the issues they were asked to study. To date, only a few committees have completed their reports, but here is one relevant report that has been released:

Senate State Affairs: Recommendations

  • Find an alternative to tying legislators’ (but not prosecutors’) standard service retirement annuities from district judges’ salaries
  • Consider eliminating straight-ticket voting for judicial candidates
  • Expand the Landowner’s Bill of Rights in eminent domain cases, including providing penalties for certain acts of non-compliance by condemners
  • Ensure the new Public Integrity Unit at DPS has adequate resources to conduct thorough investigations

The recommendations from these reports often become legislation, so we’ll be sure to summarize other relevant reports in near future.

Session volunteers

            We are seeking volunteers to come to Austin during the weeks beginning February 6th and ending the week of May 8th. If any of the issues raised in this month’s brief summary of potential legislation has grabbed your attention—or if you have an interest in something not listed here—please call or email Shannon to learn more about our legislative rotation during the next session. As of today, we have a grand total of three (3) volunteers for the entire session, which frankly isn’t going to cut it, so please consider volunteering for a stint in Austin.

Quotes of the month


“We’re not exactly killing it.”
            —SCOTUS Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, noting that the current court only hears roughly half as many cases as it did back in 1991 when he joined it.

 

“They tried to grab me from behind. … I said, ‘Dad they’re grabbing me. Just then my dad turned around and punched the guy.”
            —Vanesa Sumana, a Mexico City commuter, talking about the harassment she experienced on mass transit in that city, in response to which the city is employing some novel tactics. (You can expect to see an anti-groping bill filed in the Texas Legislature next session as well.)

 

“[President-elect Trump] thinks all kinds of crazy things about prosecutions. … I don’t think he has a very good sense of how our law enforcement system works.”
            —John Yoo, former lawyer in DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel during the George W. Bush Administration.

 

“We need grown-ups in charge in Washington saying marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger. You can see the accidents, traffic deaths related to marijuana, and you’ll see cocaine and heroin increase more than it would have, I think.”
            —U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), President-elect Trump’s presumptive nominee to be the next Attorney General, as quoted during a Senate committee hearing earlier this year.

 

“Business has gone up. People are anxious and worried, and they’re using more medical marijuana because of that.”
            —Debby Goldsberry, Oakland (CA) marijuana businesswoman, when asked about pot industry patrons’ views of a Trump Administration.

 

“Criminal violators ought not to be able to keep their ill-gotten gains. … It’s unthinkable that we would make it harder for the government to take money from a drug dealer.”
            —Sessions, in a 2015 Senate committee hearing on federal asset forfeiture, which Sessions supports.

 

“Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore. … It’s great for anybody who does anything with satire—there’s nothing you can’t write about now that people won’t believe. I can write the craziest thing about Trump, and people will believe it.”
            —Paul Horner, purveyor of multiple fake news stories that have gone viral on Facebook during this past election cycle, earning Horner and his partners tens of thousands of dollars a month in ad revenue.

 

“We really are first class idiots.”
            —Collin County Commissioner Chris Hill, in an email to his county administrator regarding commissioners’ failed attempt to set a precedent for not paying the special prosecutors in the Ken Paxton case; you’ll have to read it to believe it.

 

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