Special Session Update: June 30, 2011
They are gone. Finally. You can come out of your bunker, squint into the bright sunlight of a new, Legislature-free dawn, and finally exhale. You survived.
What you need to know about the special session.
Truthfully, not much. Of the 156 individual pieces of legislation filed during this first called session, only eight bills were eventually passed and sent to the governor for his consideration. Of those, there are three that may (or may not) affect you, as follows:
SB 1 by Duncan/Pitts "relating to certain fiscal matters" was the bill killed by Sen. Wendy Davis's (D-Ft. Worth) filibuster at the end of the regular session. In its final version, this omnibus state finance bill:
• exempts lawyers in the AG's office from having to comply with certain CLE requirements (although the amendment extending that exemption to all full-time attorneys working for the State was removed);
• lowers the lobby fee payable by associations like TDCAA (yea!);
• brings TDCAA's grant funding source into the state's general revenue fund (boo!);
• clarifies what would happen to assistant prosecutor longevity payments if the funding mechanism ever runs a shortfall in the future (answer: reductions would be apportioned equally among all recipients);
• makes changes to the state's collection improvement program for counties; and
• requires DPS to obtain proof of citizenship or legal immigration status before issuing someone a driver's license.
SB 7 by Nelson/Zerwas makes changes to how law enforcement agencies and DADS are to handle allegations of abuse in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and related entities.
HB 79 by Lewis/Duncan re-organizes and changes the civil jurisdiction of certain courts and changes the small claims courts system. Language relating to the discretionary use of mediation in criminal cases was removed before final passage, but the bill does authorize the creation of new criminal associate judges who can sign evidentiary search warrants.
Better luck next session.
Or not. Truthfully, we're not eager to have to deal with thses bills again anytime soon. However, we may see them again next session, so here's a quick summary of two controversial bills that did not pass during the special session:
SB 9 by Williams/Solomons was the "anti-sanctuary city" bill that failed to pass during the regular session. Some of the bill's requirements and limitations applied specifically to prosecutors, but what really killed its chances in the House were the last-minute efforts of some big-time Republican campaign donors who feared the negative impact the bill could have. It will be up to Gov. Perry whether it reappears in future sessions or not.
SB 29 by Patrick/Simpson was the TSA bill, aka the "groping" bill, aka the "don't touch my junk" bill. Despite lots of angry protestors stomping around the Capitol protesting the legislature's inaction, the clock ran out on this bill before it could pass. No one with any sense wanted to make this a crime, no matter how egregious some of the TSA's actions might have been, but it darn near passed, and if things at airports don't change, you can bet it will be back again.
You know our spiel by now. FYI, we've passed the 1,000-registration mark and are on our way to 2,000-plus attendees for the summer. We've also added another date—October 6 in McKinney—and are taking requests from those who want us to bring our traveling road show to their town after September. (E-mail Shannon to make a request.) Sign up your office and spread the word among your local peace officers to register for one of our summer updates now. Remember, TDCAA members who pre-register receive a 25-percent discount, and all attendees receive a copy of our Legislative Update book. Don't delay, register today!