Special Session Update: Week II

            We’ll be spending tomorrow with 200+ of our closest Bexar County friends at our next Legislative Update seminar, so we thought we’d share what little news there is from Austin one day earlier than usual.



            As predicted, the Senate has flown through its work on the governor’s special session agenda, passing more than a dozen bills on various topics. Few of those bills will have any direct impact on the jobs of district or county attorneys, but two to be aware of are SB 5 by Hancock (increasing punishment ranges for certain acts of voter fraud) and SB 15 by Hall (striking down local bans on the use of cellphones while driving). As for the latter, by replacing local prohibitions with the new statewide ban on texting while driving that is largely unprosecutable, the passage of SB 15 will result in Texas having a statewide ban on the books, but no ban in reality. (For more on why that is so, be sure to come to one of our Legislative Update classes.) For the status of all the various  items on the special session agenda, check out this handy list provided by the Texas Tribune.

            Some legislative committees are holding hearings on bills that are not on the special session agenda, in part because … well, what else are they going to do while they’re stuck in Austin? Unfortunately, during a special session those committees need provide only 24 hours’ notice (or less) before holding those hearings, so there is little opportunity for us to notify you in time to do anything. But don’t get too excited/alarmed if a random bill you love/hate is set for a hearing, because any of them can be killed by one well-timed point of order on the House or Senate floor.


Looking ahead

            By the end of this week, the Senate will have passed just about everything it set out to pass this special session, so all eyes will turn to the House, which is playing the tortoise to the Senate’s hare. But don’t take that analogy too far, because while the tortoise won that fabled race, there really are no winners in this real-life competition.


DPS crime lab update

            The hottest topic in our circle this past week was, “Who thought it was a good idea to stick local law enforcement with an $11 million tab for DPS lab tests?” No one is taking credit for that idea, but ultimately, the answer is irrelevant. The better question is whether the Legislature is going to stand by that budgeting decision. We know that some of you have been asking pointed questions of your legislators about this unwelcome surprise, and we can tell you that they are feeling the heat at the Capitol. We have no reliable, actionable information to provide you on what is the best course of action, and we’re not going to give you false hope or faulty answers—it’s too soon to say anything for certain. But if you haven’t registered your concerns about this new policy with your local legislators, now might be a good time to do that if you are worried about the impact of this new fee program. Turning up the heat can melt away the decision or harden it, but there isn’t much more to lose at this stage, so don’t be shy about making your concerns known. Remember, we are your eyes and ears at the Capitol, but not your voice—speaking up is for you to do.


Legislative Update CLEs

            Online registration for our popular Legislative Update seminars is available HERE. We are coming to 21 different locations throughout the state this summer to help everyone get up to speed on the relevant statutory changes made during the session. All attendees qualify for 3 hours or CLE and/or TCOLE credit and receive a copy of our 116-page Legislative Update book. TDCAA members who register online receive a $25 discount off the $125 registration fee, but online registration closes a few days before each seminar, so don’t delay, register today!


Pre-sales begin for 2017 code books

            Receive one of the first shipments of our new Penal Codes, Codes of Criminal Procedure, and other books by pre-ordering now on the TDCAA website (www.tdcaa.com/publications) or by calling us at 512/474-2436.


Quotes of the week

 “Sessions’ announcement only underscores the dire necessity of making real change at the state and federal level by passing meaningful protections for the people into law, and not simply relying on prosecutorial discretion and rule-making, which changes from one administration to the next.”
           —State Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville), expressing her displeasure with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recent re-emphasis on the practice of federal “forfeiture by adoption.”


“Presuming Kid Rock doesn’t get caught in bed with a little boy, or beat up a woman between now and August 2018, he’s going to win the nomination if he gets in. … I think there’s no question about that. I think he’s the prohibitive favorite if he gets in.”
            —Dennis Lennox, a Republican political consultant in Michigan, commenting upon the prospects of Robert Ritchie, aka Kid Rock, becoming a GOP primary candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).


“I knew I was going to die. But I just figured, let’s have a good hard run.”
            —Kevin Tyson, on his drug-abusing mentality when he worked as an oil field worker in the Permian Basin, where meth and cocaine use have risen in correlation with increased drilling.


 “I’m from West Texas. We know where to go to the bathroom.”
            —State Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), explaining why he was not in favor of passing any legislation on that topic.


“Some personalities in the business world don’t suffer fools very much, [but] you’ve got to suffer a lot of fools in politics.”
            —John Suthers, current mayor of Colorado Spring, CO, and former local district attorney and state attorney general, on the merits of collaboration over coercion in local politics.