Legislative Updates

Above we have links to bills that have been filed for the 83rd Legislature. We have the bills grouped into those amending the Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and other bills of interest to TDCAA members.

For information concerning legislation filed during the 83rd Regular Session or any other past session, visit the state legislature's web site at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/.

For all other legislative inquiries, e-mail Shannon Edmonds, Director of Governmental Relations, or call him at (512) 474-2436.

Legislative Update - Special Session Recap

Posted:  Wednesday, June 26, 2013 

            You know, sometimes we pause and wonder what normal people think about the legislative “process.”  The absurd can seem normal to those of us working under the dome.  After all, why shouldn’t the fate of a serious abortion bill hinge on whether or not one person helped another put on a back brace?  Rules are rules!  And yet, the ultimate result of last night’s debacle on the floor and in the gallery of the Texas Senate will probably be similar to the aftermath of the O.J. Simpson trial—regardless of each person’s opinion on the outcome, everyone lost some respect for the process.

         Still no fix for Miller v. Alabama. Sen. Huffman (R-Houston) and Rep. Kolkhorst were unable to pass SB 23, the proposed solution to our lack of a legal punishment for 17-year-old capital murderers.  The bill was stuck behind SB 5, the abortion bill, and was therefore not voted on before midnight.  Note that the Senate had already passed SB 23 once before (unanimously!), but it had to vote again because the House amended the Senate bill with a dual life-or-life-without-parole sentencing option.  The amendment was added despite our testimony in committee that doing so could endanger the bill’s final passage in the waning days of the special session—but of course, the people amending the bill knew that.  It wouldn't surprise us if some voted to amend it specifically in the hopes that it might help run out the clock on the bill.  Again.  That's just how the game is played sometimes.

            So, what now?  Rumor has it that sometime next week, Governor Perry may issue another special session call on the SB 5 abortion issue, but that is all rank speculation right now.  Whether SB 23 (Miller bill), SJR 2 (a transportation funding initiative that also died behind the SB 5 filibuster), or other issues will be added to a potential call is anyone’s guess, but if you want SB 23 added to the call, contact Shannon for details on how to best accomplish that goal.

         Legislative update schedule.  Registration for these seminars is now available online and some classes are already filling up, so reserve your spot now.  We will shut down online registration for locations with limited seating that hit their capacity, so those who snooze may lose!

         Quotes of the week.  What better way to conclude this legislative encore of a special session?  The hits just keep coming …

“Democracy took it on the chin late Tuesday/early Wednesday in a Texas Senate chamber where both sides worked to avoid the moral high ground.  Both succeeded.”
            —Ken Herman, Austin American-Statesman columnist, after the chaotic end to the first special session.

“I’ve been told he made a mistake. … They eventually told me they screwed up.”
            —State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), explaining a head-scratching veto of one of his bills that was apparently intended for another of his bills. 

“So this is Twitter.  I get it now.”
            —Ellis County & District Attorney Patrick Wilson, who had the good foresight to open a Twitter account right before the special session meltdown and was able to follow it live on Twitter. (Look for his presentation on social media at our Annual conference in Galveston this fall!) 

That’s all for now.  Our next update will be issued as events warrant.

TDCAA Legislative Re-cap - 83rd Regular Session

Posted:  Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sorry for the radio silence, but things were too hectic at the end of session to keep up with these posts!  Here's a short final recap of some of the raw numbers from the session.

         Only mostly dead.  Just when you thought it was safe to come out of your bunkers, the governor called a special session and is keeping a lot of tired, grumpy people stuck in Austin for another 30 days.  (And the legislators have to stay, too.)  The initial reason for this overtime period is redistricting, which is always the most important issue to every legislator (don’t let any of them tell you otherwise).  Despite that limitation, the legislature can still pass a bill on any issue it wants during a special session as long as no member of either chamber raises a point of order that the topic is “outside the call” of that special session.  This limitation means most controversial issues are dead on arrival unless the governor adds them to “the call,” so despite what you may read or hear about bills being filed on other subjects, there won’t be much to follow except redistricting for now.  That being the case, we still have reason to believe that other issues may be added to the call, and one of those issues could be the fact that our state lacks a punishment for capital murders committed by 17-year-olds. Several of you signed onto a letter by Harris County DA Mike Anderson asking for the governor’s help in solving the Miller v. Alabama problem during the special session.  To learn more about the issue, contact Shannon

         The final tally.  The Legislature ultimately passed almost 1,300 bills and joint resolutions, of which we were tracking more than 300.  Here are some early numbers on the bills that passed (noting that some of these categories may overlap):

            CCP (# of bills):76

            Penal Code:45

            Traffic laws:33

            Juveniles:21

            Increasing punishments:20

            Firearms:19

            New Class As or Bs:18

            Sex offense/offender:17

            New duties for prosecutors:12

            Human trafficking:11

            Family violence:11

            New Class Cs:9

            Reducing punishments:8

            New felonies:6

            Controlled Substances Act:3

            DWI:2

These are rough numbers based on our tracking software.  We will nail down "official" numbers after we summarize these bills in our popular Legislative Update book, followed by our famous traveling road show this summer.  Until then, feel free to contact Shannon if you have questions about the latest rumors regarding some unspecified-but-horrible bill that was supposedly passed.

         Legislative update schedule.  Here is the itinerary for our summer legislative update schedule:

Friday, July 19            Austin

Thursday, July 25       Corpus Christi

Friday, July 26            Edinburg

Friday, July 26            McKinney

Thursday, August 1    Lubbock

Friday, August 2         Amarillo

Friday, August 2         Houston

Thursday, August 8    Abilene

Friday, August 9         Fort Worth

Friday, August 9         Waco

Thursday, August 15  Beaumont

Thursday, August 15  Henderson

Friday, August 16       Bryan

Friday, August 16       San Antonio

Thursday, August 22  Denton

Thursday, August 22  Midland

Friday, August 23       Dallas

Friday, August 23       El Paso

Thursday, August 29  Conroe

Thursday, August 29  Llano

Friday, August 30       Austin

Tuesday, Sept. 17       Galveston

Registration for these seminars is now available online, so reserve your seat now!

         Quotes of the week.  Once more unto the breach …

“Some of them are crazy.”
            —State Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston), talking about this session’s crop of House freshmen.

“My wife says there’s a whole bunch of light bulbs that need to be changed and things like that.  I’m sure there are a lot of honey-dos.  My lawnmower is broken.  I’ve got a lot of things I need to do back home.”
            —State Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), explaining why many legislators are not happy to still be in Austin

“Lawmakers always have the unique privilege of making rules that apply only to themselves.”
            —Bill Miller, lobbyist, referring to debates at the end of the regular session over increasing legislators’ pensions (passed), granting them special privileges to carry concealed weapons where others cannot (failed), and keeping their home addresses out of the personal financial disclosures they must file (passed).

"Seems like legislative sessions are one of those necessary evils, like a prostate exam.  You are glad when it’s over, but you’re still waiting to see what happens … good or bad!"
            —Kent Birdsong, Oldham County and District Attorney

That’s all from us for now.  We will alert you if any criminal law-related news happens during this special session, but if not, then our next update will come out after the veto period ends. 

FAQs on HB 79 and grand juries

December 21, 2011

Now that there is finally some clarity on what HB 79's changes mean--namely, that an original term of court in effect at the turn of the new year in a district court that was not already subject to the "first Monday in January" rule* will continue until Sunday, July 1, 2012--we've received several inquiries best summed up as:  "Okay, but what does that mean for ME?"  We will continue to answer individual questions as we receive them, but we thought we'd put together these frequently asked questions (FAQs) to address the most common questions we've been receiving here at TDCAA (and at OCA, who helped compile this information).  [*Note that this clarification was added on 12/22/11; district courts that previously were on the same term of court schedule now imposed upon all courts are not affected by HB 79's changes.]

Q:  Do we really have to use the current grand jury impaneled in October 2011 all the way through June 2012?  I’m afraid the grand jurors may revolt if kept that long!  Can we just go ahead and impanel a new grand jury in January instead?

A:  That question appears to be up to the discretion of the impaneling judge.  The state constitution and state statutes are silent on whether a district court can impanel more than one grand jury per term of court, but the Court of Criminal Appeals has, on at least two occasions, found no prohibition to doing so.  State v. Broaddus, 3 S.W.3d 919 (Tex.Crim.App. 1999)(indictment by grand jury convened by special prosecutor not voided by existence of regularly-impaneled grand jury); Farrar v. State, 277 S.W.2d 114 (1955)(indictment by regularly-impaneled grand jury not voided by existence of hold-over grand jury from previous term).  Therefore, if your district judge wants to discharge the current grand jury and impanel a new one in the same term, that appears to be permissible.  The judge could also allow the current grand jury to adjourn (see next question) and then discharge both grand juries at the end of the term.  “The decision whether two grand juries are needed to carry the burden of work is for the judge …” (Broaddus, at 922).

Q:  If we don’t want to impanel a new grand jury in January, can we just give this one a break and then call them back into service later in this extended term of court?

A:  Yes.  You can do this one of two ways; either (1) with the consent of the impaneling court, the grand jury can adjourn for a specific period of time until a date certain in the future (CCP Art. 20.08), or (2) the impaneling court can discharge the grand jury and then re-assemble it again at a date of the court’s choosing (CCP Art. 19.41).

Q:  We have multiple impaneling courts in our county.  Can we wait until mid-term to impanel some of our grand juries in order to stagger our grand juries between those district courts that are all now on the same term?

A:  That appears to be fine.  A grand jury “may be convened on the first or any subsequent day of the term” (CCP Art. 19.13).  While a grand jury cannot extend beyond its regular term (except for hold-over grand juries as provided by CCP Art. 19.07), there is no minimum period of time in statute for which a grand jury must be impaneled, so a judge can discharge a panel at any time.  Therefore, if you want to impanel a grand jury in one district court from January through March, discharge it, and then impanel a new grand jury under a different district court in April and run it through the end of the term, that should be permissible. (Note that this is just one example of how that might work.)

Q:  We have a grand jury whose original term would have ended in late October 2011 but it was held over for 90 days pursuant to Art. 19.07. Does that grand jury extension to late January 2012 remain in effect past the first of the year, or is it terminated then, or does it continue until the end of June?

A:  The term of that hold-over grand jury expires at the end of the original 90-day extension. HB 79 should have no effect on grand juries that have had their original term extended under CCP Art. 19.07. The change in law only extends grand juries whose original term was to expire after 1/1/12 under the old law.

We hope these FAQs help to answer some of your local issues.  Should you have more specific questions about the particular situation in your jurisdiction, feel free to call or email us at TDCAA.  Again, we’re sorry for the initial confusion about this topic, but look on the bright side—we’ve all learned more about grand jury impaneling than we probably ever wanted to know in the first place!

Legislative Summary of Regular Session: June 1, 2011

So much for those “well-earned days off” for which we were pining last week …

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

The 82nd Regular Session adjourned sine die (“without day,” as in, without further meetings) on Monday.  However, the usual festivities were dampened by news that the governor was calling a special session to direct the legislature to complete unfinished work on health care and education.  What that means for you remains to be seen. 

By the numbers.

As of the end of business on Monday, legislators passed roughly 1,390 substantive bills and joint resolutions during the regular session (as near as we can tell).  That is almost 100 fewer than in 2009, so we suppose we should be thankful for their restraint.  Of the total number passed, more than 300 of those bills could affect your business, so we’ll have more than enough material to fill our summer legislative updates.  As of now, it’s still too early for us to provide detailed information about everything that has been passed along to the governor, but while we work on that, here is a summary of some of the issues we followed for you during the regular session (in alphabetical order, for lack of a better system):

Asset forfeiture:  As we mentioned might happen, SB 316 ended up passing with several interesting amendments.  Whether it deserves a veto will be for each of you to decide individually.  Elsewhere, the legislature added several new crimes to CCP Chapter 59’s forfeiture provisions, including the new crime of cockfighting, thanks to the passage of HB 1043.

Border, homeland security, and immigration issues:  The legislature failed to pass any of its omnibus immigration-related bills, including HB 12 (sanctuary cities) or SB 9 (homeland security), nor did DPS’s border checkpoint expansion pass.  However, the legislature did pass HB 260 (human smuggling) and SB 1649 (border prosecution grants).

Budget:  Everyone should know the score on this by now:  Other than cuts to DA apportionment and TDCAA’s training grant, prosecutors emerged from this session relatively unscathed.  The criminal justice system as a whole also avoided some of the worst cuts initially being proposed, but that is subject to change during the special session, so we will hold off on any summaries until legislators have finally gone home for the summer.

Civil issues:  HB 274, the “loser pays” bill, was the big news on this front, along with SB 18 on eminent domain.  There were multiple CPS-related bills that also passed, but none matching the wholesale changes of past sessions.

Controlled substances:  The main bills on this front are HB 1137 (tracking of OTC sales of ephedrine-related products), HB 2118 (bath salts), SB 158 (prescription fraud), and SB 331 (synthetic marihuana).

Criminal discovery:  Every session, the legislature files multiple discovery-related bills, and every session, none of them pass due to an inability of prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers to come to agreement on anything.  This session was no different.

Death penalty:  As is its habit of late, the legislature debated various problems with the death penalty and then ended up expanding it—this time, by extending the age of eligible child victims from “under 6” to “under 10” years of age in SB 377.

DWI:  Two DWI-related bills supported by prosecutors that failed to pass were HB 189 (deferred adjudication for first offenders) and HB 1507 (authorizing search warrants by non-lawyer JPs).  However, the legislature did pass HB 1199 (increased punishment ranges for high BACs and for certain intoxication assaults), SB 364 (increased data reporting), and SB 1787 (including blood draw information in DIC-24 warnings).

Expunctions:  Several potentially controversial expunction bills passed this session, including HB 351, SB 462, and HB 2889.  They give prosecutors more power over the expunction of those records, but it also means you will be getting expunction requests after practically every dismissal, so … have fun with that.  The only thing that we can say with certainty is that if all of them become law, CCP Chapter 55 will become a mess because the bills are internally inconsistent.

Family violence:  There wasn’t much new on this front other than SB 82 (stalking). 

Gambling:  As we predicted would happen, pro-gambling interests crapped out this session and walked away from the tables empty-handed.  The only changes the legislature passed were minor bills relating to charitable raffles and charitable bingo.

Human trafficking:  This issue was the topic du jour for the 82nd Legislature.  Among the human trafficking-related bills that passed are HB 1930 (human trafficking prevention task force), HB 2014 (prevention/prosecution/punishment of human trafficking), HB 3000 (continuous human trafficking), HCR 68 (joint interim legislative committee to study human trafficking in Texas), and SB 24 (various consequences for human trafficking).

Innocence commission:  Attempts to create a free-standing statewide innocence commission failed again, as HB 115 was defeated on the House floor.  Instead, HB 1574 was amended to require law school innocence projects to annually report on the exoneration of any of their clients, including a summary of the likely causes of the erroneous conviction.

Investigative procedures:  After a false start last session, the legislature finally passed HB 215 to provide guidance to law enforcement agencies conducting identification line-ups.  However, bills that would mandate the recording of certain custodial interrogations, such as HB 219 and SB 123, failed to pass.

Juvenile:  The big news here was the passage of SB 653, which consolidates the Youth Commission and the Juvenile Probation Commission into one Texas Juvenile Justice Department; however, the impact that change has on the day-to-day proceedings of local juvenile courts remains to be seen.  Other juvenile-related bills that passed include HB 2015 (prostitution now = CINS) and HB 2337 (juvenile statements).

Mental health:  Several bills relating to mental health passed this session, including HB 748 (incompetency restoration), HB 2725 (incompetency), and HB 3342 (mental health writ procedures).

Post-conviction litigation:  Two bills will expand access to post-conviction DNA testing—SB 122 and HB 1573—both eliminate certain prerequisites in current law for inmates seeking DNA testing.  To facilitate that testing, SB 1616 also implements new retention rules for biological evidence.  Other bills that would expand post-conviction opportunities died on the vine, including HB 220/SB 317 (subsequent “scientific” writs).

Prison issues:  Most of the let-’em-out-early bills failed to pass, thanks to the opposition of prosecutors.  Among those that may affect prison capacity are HB 2649 (“diligent participation credits” for early discharge from state jail facilities) and HB 3384 (clarifying penalties for repeat state jail felony offenders).

Probation issues:  In an effort to accelerate probation discharges, HB 1205 authorizes time credits toward early release or final discharge for defendants who complete certain probation terms early or on time.  Another idea designed to deter probation revocations involves something called “commitment reduction plans” as created by both HB 3691 and SB 1055.

Sex offenders/offenses:  Although this was a relatively slow year for sex offender legislation, the legislature did pass HB 3 (LWOP for certain repeat offenders), HB 1344 (limiting defenses for display of harmful material to a minor), HB 3746 (administrative subpoenas relating to child exploitation), SB 198 (sex offender registration exemptions), and SB 407 (lowered penalties for “sexting”).  Another sex offense-related bill that passed was SB 1010, which requires prosecutors to provide notice of any plea bargain agreements to victims of certain sex crimes and other serious offenses.

Transportation Code:  Perhaps the most interesting change to the Transportation Code might be HB 242, which was amended to include a ban on texting while driving.

What happens next?

Now that the regular session is over, the fate of these and all other bills resides with the governor.  His staff must review every bill that has been passed and decide whether their boss should sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.  If the governor decides to veto a bill, he must do so by Sunday, June 19 (Father’s Day).  Considering the time necessary for that office to exercise due diligence in considering such requests, we recommend you send any correspondence to the governor as soon as possible, and no later than Monday, June 13.  For more information on how to go about making such a request, contact Rob or Shannon at TDCAA.

Legislative training.

Our popular Legislative Update seminars are continuing to fill up, and with good reason.  Don’t think our little summary of passed legislation here is enough to get you up to speed with all they did this session—we only covered about 50 bills above, yet there are literally hundreds of other news laws going into effect before or on September 1 of this year, including the creation of as many as 75 (!) new criminal offenses or new penalties for existing crimes.  In addition, our legislative trainings will have accurate information, which is important because we are already receiving calls from prosecutors who have been ill-informed about new laws based on misinformation from other sources.  You don’t want to be the last person in your courtroom to know about important changes in the law, so sign up your office and your local officers for one of our summer updates at http://www.tdcaa.com/seminars/signup.asp.  TDCAA members who pre-register receive a 25-percent discount, and all attendees receive a copy of our Legislative Update book.  Our seminars are also the first opportunity peace officers will have to satisfy their TCLEOSE Course 3182 requirement on legislative changes for the 2012-2013 training biennium, so we expect a lot of officers to show up.  Space is limited at some locations, so don’t delay—we already have over 100 pre-registrations for some locations!

Loan repayment application period to begin November 15, 2010

October 6, 2010

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) has announced that the application for loan repayment through the federal John R. Justice grant will be posted on this web page on November 15, 2010, with an application deadline of January 7, 2011.

Please continue to monitor this page in the coming weeks for any updates. TDCAA will also disseminate program information by fax or email to every prosecutor's office later this month with a reminder.

JRJ Loan Repayment Grant Approved!

September 28, 2010

Those of you who attended our Annual Update in South Padre Island and visited with representatives from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) know that the state's application for loan repayment funds has (finally!) been accepted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).  Texas has been awarded a grant for the maximum amount available under the federal grant ($701,233).  However, due to the wonders of federal red tape, THECB will not be authorized to obligate or expend any portion of the grant funds until a federal compliance review of the grant budget is completed.

If THECB receives final budget approval before November 15, the application will be posted on this web page on November 15, with an application deadline of January 7, 2011. The THECB has put together a handy summary of the initial program rules, along with additional program information, available HERE.

 

Texas submits JRJ application ahead of deadline

July 22, 2010

Today the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) submitted Texas' application for loan repayment funds under the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program.  If accepted, the agency will then create a procedure for accepting applications for those funds, including a website for submitting online applications from eligible prosecutors and public defenders.

Once the state's application is accepted, we will provide you with more details.  Until then ... keep your fingers crossed!

(For previous entries on loan repayment, click here.)

Governor designates THECB as administering agency

July 12, 2010

As required by the Department of Justice, Governor Rick Perry has designated the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to be Texas' administering agency for the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program.  Those of you who have received (panicked) emails about this designation can rest assured that Texas is well on its way to applying for the funds eligible under this program.

TDCAA is working with THECB and the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense (TFID) to finalize the state's application and submit it later this month.  For more information on this process, visit TFID's information page at http://www.courts.state.tx.us/tfid/JRJprogram.asp.

Loan repayment information

July 12, 2010

In an effort to make good use of a webpage that would otherwise have lain fallow during the legislative interim, TDCAA will use this Legislative page to keep you updated with all the latest information about the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program.

For starters, you can find related posts on our website by clicking on these links:

"Information about certain federal student loan repayment and forgiveness programs" (July 1, 2010)

"Loan repayment survey" (June 16, 2010)

"Federal student loan repayment assistance for prosecutors" (Sept.-Oct. 2008 issue of The Prosecutor)

We will continue to update this webpage with information on loan repayment, so check it frequently.

Short Summary of 81st Regular Session

June 9, 2009

Sine die
The 81st Regular Session has adjourned sine die (Latin for "without day," meaning without any future date being designated to reconvene). During the past 140 days, the 81st Legislature sent roughly 1,460 bills to the Governor for his consideration. That number probably represents one "zero" more than needed to be passed, but that's the nature of the game in Austin. Of those bills that successfully ran the legislative gauntlet, at least 250 of them (and maybe more) will affect district and county attorneys in some form or fashion. Even though we have been following many of those bills throughout the process, some of them were being changed right up until the final moment of passage, so it is going to take us some time before we have a good grip on what laws did and did not change (and whether we got hornswoggled on any issues when we were watching something else). While we work on that, here is a summary of some of the issues we were following for you (in alphabetical order, for lack of a better system):

Asset forfeiture reform
Dead. SB 1529 (Whitmire/Gallego) was killed when House Democrats "chubbed" the voter ID bill to death. The text of the bill was then amended onto HB 1320 (Christian/Ellis), the cockfighting bill, but that also failed to pass. The only changes of note to CCP Chapter 59 ended up being a few additions to the list of what constitutes contraband.

Budget
The legislature adopted a $182.3 billion budget for the 2010-2011 biennium, which is $12.6 billion (7.4%) larger than the 2008-2009 budget. Early predictions of a multi-billion dollar shortfall were proven wrong, but only because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal stimulus) poured billions of dollars into Texas at just the right time. This infusion of cash guaranteed that the basic line items affecting prosecutors--salaries, state supplements, assistant longevity pay, travel, and apportionment funding--remained intact. Included in the list of beneficiaries of the state's largesse were several border security projects to provide for more DPS troopers, more Texas Rangers, a new Joint Operations and Intelligence Center and Border Operations Center, and a new Governor's Regional Center for Operations and Intelligence. (We will work with our friends at DPS and the Governor's Office to flesh out how these programs will coordinate with prosecutors.) Another bright spot was the recognition that all this extra police work on the border will mean more work for Texas prosecutors; to that end, the budget includes $4 million in the border security package for prosecution resources. Prosecutors who deal with border-related issues will be gathering shortly to talk about how to best use these resources; if you have more questions about that, call Rob Kepple.

Criminal discovery procedures
No major changes. HB 1360 (Anchia/West) clarifies that having an open file policy does not waive any confidentiality protections under the Public Information Act, and SB 595 (Hegar/Gallego) provides new protections from release for evidence of child pornography, but nothing else of note passed.

Criminal street gangs
SB 11 (Carona/Miklos), the omnibus anti-gang bill, died in the House dispute over voter ID, but large parts of it survived and passed as amendments to HB 2086 (Moody/Carona). The Legislature also finally got around to fixing the conflicts between two similar gang solicitation bills by reconciling them in HB 2187 (Moody/Carona).

Death penalty
No substantive changes here; none of the death penalty bills we followed this session crossed the finish line except for SB 1091 (Ellis/Gallego), which creates an Office of Capital Writs in Austin, and some other bills addressed appointment of counsel issues.

DWI blood draws
Big, big changes here. SB 261 (Deuell/Gattis) died in the House Chub-A-Thon, but the text of the bill was amended onto SB 328 (Carona/Phillips) and passed. Assuming it survives review by the Governor, the new law could dramatically increase law enforcement's ability to obtain blood evidence in certain DWI cases. Be sure to come to our legislative updates this summer to learn more about it.

Expunctions and deferred adjudication
No changes were made to the general laws governing deferred adjudication, despite multiple attempts to do so. Dozens of expunction-related bills were also filed this session, most of which failed to pass, but among the survivors were HB 3481 (Veasey/Harris), a bill designed to address the Beam case and related statute of limitation issues (although it goes well beyond that).

Eyewitness identification
SB 117 (Ellis/Gallego) failed to pass, a victim of the debate over other issues--or as one observer put it, "They chose voter ID over eyewitness ID."

Family violence
Among the bills dealing with family violence (FV) offenses that passed this session were: HB 1506 (Herrero/Hinojosa) relating to the electronic monitoring of FV defendants on bond; HB 2066 (Gallego/Nelson) increasing penalties for FV assault involving strangulation or suffocation; and HB 2240 (Lewis/Nelson) creating the new offense of Continuous Violence Against the Family, an assault-oriented crime similar to the Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child offense created by Jessica's Law last session. Among the FV bills that failed to pass were two protective order changes: SB 843 (Uresti/Castro) authorizing protective orders against certain third-parties, and HB 853 (Laubenberg/Uresti) adding pets within the scope of a protective order.

Innocence commission
HB 498 (McClendon/Ellis) passed and is awaiting a decision by the Governor. The final version of the bill creates the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions housed within the Task Force on Indigent Defense (TFID). That panel is charged with helping the TFID conduct a study on various innocence-related issues, including whether the state should create a "real" innocence commission. The 10-member panel will consist of the TFID executive director, two senators, two representatives, the TCDLA executive director, the TDCAA president, a judge from the CCA, a representative of a law school, and someone from the governor's office. (Do the math yourself to predict the probable outcome of future votes.) This was one of the more controversial bills to pass this session, so feel free to contact us if you want further information about its eventual fate.

Human trafficking
SB 89 (Van de Putte/Thompson) was another victim of the House meltdown over voter ID, but the text of the bill was amended onto HB 4009 (Weber/Van de Putte) and passed into law.

Journalist shield
HB 670 (Martinez Fischer/Ellis) was signed by the Governor and became law on May 13. It's already been used at least once in Nueces County to prevent the State from subpoenaing a TV reporter to testify about an interview of a defendant that she recorded. Look for a detailed analysis of the new law in the July/August issue of the Texas Prosecutor.

Local control of prosecution
The various legislative threats to prosecutors' constitutional authority are all dead. (No, really. We can finally say that without equivocation. Well, at least until next session.) SB 1065/HB 1618 (Williams/Pena) to create a civil racketeering cause of action for the AG? Dead. HB 566/HB 1400 (Christian) to give public integrity jurisdiction to the AG? Dead. HB 778 (S. Miller) to give campaign finance jurisdiction to the AG? Dead. ("Marmalard?" "Dead!" "Niedermeyer? ...")

Post-conviction litigation
SB 1864 (Ellis/Hochberg), which would have removed some existing impediments to requesting post-conviction DNA testing, was a victim of the voter ID debacle, as was SB 1976 (Whitmire/Gallego), which would have created a new ground for a subsequent application for a writ of habeas corpus based upon certain types of expert testimony.

Recording of custodial interrogations
SB 116 (Ellis/Farrar) failed to pass, yet another victim of the fight over voter ID.

Sex offenders
This issue was not nearly as popular this session as last (see, e.g., Jessica's Law). In fact, SB 2035 (Shapiro), the law to bring Texas into compliance with federal sex offender registration mandates, never even received a public hearing. However, some sex offender-related bills did pass, including: SB 2048 (Williams/Riddle) authorizing a centralized sex offender registration authority in certain counties; HB 2153 (Edwards/Ellis) addressing homeless sex offenders and other registrants who frequently fall between the cracks of the current system; and HB 3148 (T. Smith/West) permitting de-registration for certain young offenders.

Specialty courts
"Veterans courts" may be coming soon to a county near you. SB 112 (Ellis/Vaught) died, but the concept was passed as a part of SB 1940 (Van de Putte/Ortiz), an unrelated veterans' bill.

State schools
The Legislature passed SB 643 (Nelson/Rose) to help clean up the state school system (whose institutions are now to be known as "state-supported learning centers," by the way). Among the interesting amendments to this bill was text from HB 597 (Hughes) adding disabled individuals to the scope of the outcry statute's hearsay exception.

Sunset bills
If there is a special session, it will be in part because the Legislature failed to pass sunset reauthorization bills for the Departments of Insurance and Transportation (along with several other agencies). Fortunately, the sunset bills for DPS--HB 2730 (Kolkhorst/Hinojosa)--and TYC & TJPC--HB 3689 (McClendon/Hinojosa)--both passed without too much collateral damage being done in the form of last-minute amendments (as far as we can tell). It will take some time to review those lengthy bills, but we'll let you know if we find any surprises hidden in them.

What's next
Now that legislators have gone home, the Governor takes center stage. His staff must review every bill that has been passed and decide whether to sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature. If the Governor decides to veto a bill, he must do so by Sunday, June 21 (a.k.a. Father's Day, a.k.a. the first day of summer). Any bill not vetoed by then will become law according to its prescribed effective date.  If you want the Governor to sign or veto a bill, contact Rob or Shannon for tips on how to make an effective presentation.

Summer Updates
Remember, TDCAA's 2009 Legislative Update will be coming to 18 cities across Texas this summer. To register, go HERE and click on your preferred date and location. The cost is $75 for TDCAA members who pre-register up to one week before the training and $100 for non-TDCAA members or members who register less than one week before the training (including on-site registration the day of the training). Attendees will also get a free copy of our popular Legislative Update book. Attendance at some locations may be limited, so don't delay!

Coming soon: new code books!
In addition to our regional legislative seminars this summer, updated versions of the spiral-bound Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, the annotated Criminal Laws of Texas, and all other code books are in the works. Barring a special session, those books are due back from the printer around mid-August, so pre-order yours today for fastest delivery. To place an order, see the updated publications order form on the publications page of this website, or look for an order form for the new code books in a TDCAA Legislative Update brochure. For questions, call or email Sales Manager Andrew Smith.

Quote of the week

"I thought I was watching an episode of Lost."
--Gov. Rick Perry, describing his reaction to the Legislature's failure to save several state agencies from potential dissolution on the final day of the session.