Update: May 6, 2011
The session ends three weeks from Monday. Budget negotiations are a mess. Redistricting is far from a done deal. The Senate is mad at the House, the House is mad at the Senate, and everyone is mad at Father Time, who inexorably marches forward, leaving dead and dying bills in his wake. There's even a rumor that House Democrats might reprise their roles from the 2003 movie "Quorum Buster: The Ardmore Escape" in an effort to slow down the passage of legislation they oppose. What drama!
As we enter the final furlongs of this session's back stretch, note the following legislative deadlines:
Thursday, May 12: Last day for HBs to be considered on House floor (2nd reading)
Friday, May 20: Last day for local HBs to be considered on House floor (final reading)
Tuesday, May 24: Last day for SBs to be considered on House floor (2nd reading)
Wednesday, May 25: Last day for local SBs to be considered on House floor (final reading) and last day for all HBs to be considered on Senate floor (final reading)
Sunday, May 29: Last day for House and Senate to finally pass all bills
Monday, May 30: House and Senate adjourn sine die.
Remember, though, that these deadlines apply to bills, not the language in them. Just because a bill has died due to a procedural deadline does not mean that the language can't live on in an amendment to another related bill. That's what makes our job so fun. And frustrating. Is there a word that combines the two? Surely the Germans have one; any people who can invent a great word like Schadenfreude (literally: "harm" + "joy") must have figured out a way to combine "fun" and "frustrating" ... oh wait, we already have one—"Legislature." Never mind.
Funding issues head to conference committee
After several stops and starts, the full Senate finally passed its version of HB 1, the state budget for FY 2012-2013. At $179.5 billion, the Senate budget is 5.9 percent smaller than the current state budget, but it is still $12 billion larger than the House version. The budget now heads to a conference committee made up of five House members and five Senators who will hammer out the differences and try to get their respective chambers to approve the compromise. The pundits tell us that the Senate may have cut its own throat by not coming together in a bipartisan agreement on its budget and making it easier for the House to divide and conquer the senior chamber, but you never know.
For prosecutors, there is good and bad news going into the final budget negotiations. First, district attorney salaries, county attorney supplements, and assistant prosecutor longevity pay are fully funded. (Stop for a minute and let that soak in, because many people in your local communities would love to be able to say the same about their equivalent state funding.) The bad news is that felony prosecutor apportionment funding is cut in both proposed budgets. In the House version, prosecutors are lumped into two groups: Those serving jurisdictions of more than 50,000 people get the statutory minimum $22,500, while those serving jurisdictions of less than 50,000 get $27,500. The Senate version also distinguishes between two groups, but in a different way; under that plan, offices in the Professional Prosecutor Act (PPA) get the statutory minimum of $22,500, but offices outside the PPA get no apportionment funds. (To view a spreadsheet detailing and comparing these budgets, download the attachment below.) Felony prosecutors are probably one of the few groups who fare better in the House version than the Senate version. Chalk that up to the responsiveness of House Appropriations members who listened to their local DAs. Now let's see if they hold the line. In these final weeks of the session, the message from prosecutors to the conference committee members should be to adopt the House version of the apportionment funding. The conference committee will be appointed next week, and we will post those members in our weekly update for your use if you choose to weigh in on this issue.
Bills to watch update
Note that HB 1477 by Allen (D-Houston) granting "street time" credit to revoked TDCJ inmates was debated on the House floor but eventually pulled down when it became apparent that prosecutors had rallied enough opposition to kill the bill if it went to a vote. To the extent you took steps to accomplish that goal, you may pat yourself on the back.
Sent to the governor
The following bills were sent to the governor this past week: HB 905 by Thompson/Harris (child hearsay statements in protective order proceedings), SB 653 by Whitmire/Madden (combining TYC & TJPC into a new agency), SB 877 by Hinojosa/Gallego (verifying incarceration of a bail jumper), SB 934 by Williams/Hilderbran (enforcement of tax laws), and SB 1269 by Wentworth/Branch (honorariums).
Passed second chamber with changes
HB 1 by Pitts/Ogden (state budget), SB 14 by Fraser/Harless (voter ID), SB 18 by Estes/Geren (eminent domain), SB 321 by Hegar/Kleinschmidt (guns at work), and SB 1420 by Hinojosa/Harper-Brown (TxDOT sunset).
Passed first chamber
The House passed the following measures this week: HB 1199 by Gallego (enhancement for certain intoxication assaults), HB 1226 by Dutton (voting by those on deferred adjudication), HB 1389 by Hopson (penalty increase for certain dog attacks), HB 1723 by Lucio III (continuous violation of bonds/protective orders), HB 2285 by Nash (DWI blood draw reimbursements), HB 2847 by Madden (use of video conferencing technology), HB 3384 by Madden (revising punishments for repeat state jail felony offenders), HB 3396 by Hernandez Luna (breach of computer security), and HJR 98 by Burkett (denial of bail to certain repeat offenders).
Across the aisle, the Senate approved SB 288 by Lucio (DPS southbound checkpoints), SB 462 by West (expanding expunctions), SB 1117 by Whitmire (parental contribution to truancy), SB 1579 by Ogden (general gov't fiscal matters), SB 1583 by Ogden (judicial fiscal matters), SB 1636 by Davis (testing of rape kits), and SB 1649 by Watson (border prosecution grants).
Scheduled floor debates
The House is currently pre-occupied with voting out as many House bills as possible before Thursday's deadline. Among the bills currently calendared for debate starting tomorrow—yes, they are now meeting on Saturdays—are HB 274 by Creighton ("loser pays" civil bill), HB 189 by T. Smith (deferred for DWI-1st), HB 1043 by Christian (cockfighting), HB 278 by Alonzo (mandatory pre-trial hearings), and HB 597 by Madden (fake weed). However, due to the vagaries of the House calendaring system and such time-honored practices as the infamous House "chubbing," none of these bills (or any others calendared later in the week) is guaranteed to be taken up before Thursday's midnight deadline.
Unlike the House, the Senate doesn't chub; instead, it usually spends these final weeks passing as much junk as it can over to the House to let them sort it all out. The Senate also won't meet on Saturdays until perhaps the very end of session. To follow the action on the Senate floor, keep checking the Senate's list of bills eligible for debate—one of which should be SB 31, its own redistricting bill.
Here are some of the bills that will be considered next week:
Monday, May 9
House Elections (2:00 p.m. or upon adjournment, E2.028)
SJR 37 by Van de Putte proposing a constitutional amendment to revise the resign-to-run provision for certain offices
Tuesday, May 10
House Homeland Security & Public Safety (8:30 a.m., E2.028)
SB 9 by Williams relating to homeland security (including organized criminal activity)
SB 364 by Ogden to collect statistical information on the prosecution of DWI offenses
SB 947 by Dan Patrick granting limited state law enforcement authority to certain federal criminal investigators
House Criminal Jurisprudence (10:30 a.m. or upon adjournment, JHR 120)
SB 122 by Ellis expanding post-conviction forensic DNA testing
SB 144 by West allowing a pardon for a successfully completed deferred adjudication
SB 158 by Williams relating to the fraudulent obtaining of a controlled substance
SB 159 by Williams relating to the diversion of a controlled substance
SB 167 by West relating to expunctions after an individual receives a pardon
SB 377 by Huffman making the murder of a child under 10 years of age a capital crime
SB 462 by West relating to the right to an expunction
SB 496 by Fraser relating to the punishment for evading arrest or detention in a watercraft
SB 519 by Hegar relating to a motion for a new trial in a justice or municipal court
SB 878 by Whitmire relating to a defendant's release on a partial cash bond
SB 879 by Whitmire relating to local probation departments monitoring conditions of bond
SB 1010 by Huffman providing a victim with notice of a plea bargain in certain cases
SB 1059 by Nichols relating to the collection of court costs, fees, and fines
SB 1066 by Estes adding "bath salts" to Penalty Group 2
SB 1098 by Huffman relating to prohibited practices regarding unauthorized recordings
SB 1103 by Carona expanding venue for certain theft offenses
Senate Criminal Justice (1:30 p.m. or upon adjournment, E1.016)
(Not posted at press time.)
Wednesday, May 11
House Corrections (8:00 a.m., E2.014)
SB 315 by Carona relating to compiling and maintaining gang information
SB 1055 by Carona creating "commitment reduction plans" for probation departments
SB 1208 by Whitmire relating to the age until which certain juveniles may be on probation
SB 1489 by Whitmire relating to jurisdiction for truancy and failure to attend school
|Apportionment Comparision Spreadsheet for download.doc||27 KB|
|Apportionment Comparision Spreadsheet 4-25-11.pdf||84.75 KB|