Legislative Updates

Each week during Texas legislative sessions, TDCAA recaps the most important news and events. Look to this page for current and past issues of TDCAA’s Legislative Updates.

For information concerning legislation filed during the 87th Regular Session, visit the state legislature’s web site or e-mail Shannon Edmonds, Director of Governmental Relations, or call him at (512) 474-2436.


Interim Update: May 2024

May 31, 2024

Have you noticed how extreme our weather has gotten lately? Tornados, floods, hail, etc.? Well, consider that your free preview of next year’s legislative session if recent statewide election returns are any indication.

Prosecutor run-off results

Results from this week’s prosecutor run-offs:

27th Judicial DA (Bell County) (R): Stephanie Newell defeated Jeff Parker (by 17 votes) and will face Kurt Glass (D) in November.
34th Judicial DA (El Paso/Culberson/Hudspeth) (D): James Montoya defeated Alma Trejo and will face incumbent Bill Hicks (R) in November.
105th Judicial DA (Nueces) (R): Incumbent Jimmy Granberry defeated James Sales and will face Terry Shamsie (D) in November.
Atascosa CA (R): Molly Groesbeck Solis defeated incumbent Lucinda Vickers (no general election opponent).
Coke CA (R): Cody McCabe beat Russell Ash (no general election opponent).

To view an updated list of the 11 contested prosecutor races still on the ballot in November, click HERE.

Statewide run-off results

At the state level, the most-watched primary run-off election was in Southeast Texas, where House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) fended off a local challenger in what ended up being the most expensive State House race in Texas history ($5.4 million and still counting). In doing so, Speaker Phelan was the first Lege incumbent since 1992 to win a run-off after finishing second in his initial primary election and he avoided being the first House speaker to lose a primary since the 1970s. Those feats of political daring were tempered, however, by the fact that the House he will return to in January 2025 could look significantly different than the current body, which puts his re-election as speaker in doubt. (In fact, two former allies of Speaker Phelan have declared their candidacy for his speaker seat despite his victory.)

Historically, an incumbent legislator pushed to a run-off has only a 25 percent chance of success, and while the speaker beat those odds, that rule of thumb held true for eight other Republican incumbents, only two of whom survived their run-off challenge. When added to March’s original primary results, the combination of Governor Abbott’s school choice campaign and Attorney General Paxton’s impeachment revenge tour resulted in a total of 15 House GOP incumbents being defeated, the most in modern history. This is on top of one House Democrat who lost her run-off this week and 19 other House members of both parties who retired, making for a minimum turnover of 35 House seats—or almost one-quarter of that lower chamber—heading into the next session. And while legislative races take place across districts purposely drawn by legislators to protect the candidate of one party or the other, there could be yet more surprises in November that could contribute to the general uncertainty regarding who will be leading the House heading into the 89th Regular Session in January 2025.

In sum, we are hard-pressed to remember a primary season that was as vitriolic (and expensive!) as the one we just lived through, and anyone telling you they know what will happen next is selling you something. However, it does seem like next year’s regular session is shaping up to be a rollercoaster of a legislative ride.

Interim hearings

Senate committees are already digging into the summer homework given to them by the lite guv. This week, the Senate State Affairs committee took testimony on topics that included election fraud and regulating intoxicating hemp products.

On the election fraud charge, committee discussions focused on prevention and technological issues more than enforcement, so there is not much new to report on that front.

Regarding intoxicating hemp products such as delta-8, delta-10, THCA, and related THC isomers that are being manipulated to create intoxicating effects similar to illegal delta-9 THC, several committee members showed their frustration with perceived abuses of the original hemp law. Their concerns were matched by a witness who runs one of Texas’s three compassionate use program (T-CUP) vendors who finds his legal “medical marijuana” business undercut by much cheaper, unregulated (or under-regulated) street-corner hemp/CBD/etc. outlets. However, no new ground was really plowed during the hours of testimony taken by the committee, nor was any consensus reached. There are now more than 7,000 retail locations in Texas registered with DSHS to legally sell consumable hemp products, and many more unregistered vendors also exist, so resolving concerns about intoxicating hemp products will not be an easy task. For those of you who are frustrated with the current state of things, though, it is a good sign that solutions are being considered. (Meanwhile, congratulations to whoever’s committee bingo card had “ban it outright,” “legalize and regulate it,” “let’s ban child-attractive packaging,” “legalize it for our veterans with PTSD,” and “people have been getting high in this state for a long time”—all were winning squares!)

To watch the fun for yourself, click HERE; the hemp charge starts around the 07:41:00 mark and the invited witnesses conclude around 09:29:00, followed by public testimony (and bless anyone who chooses to wade through that, you are on your own there).

In related news, Congress has taken up reauthorization of the federal Farm Bill this year and a move is afoot to address the delta-8/delta-10/etc. problem at the federal level too, but considering the current level of dysfunction in D.C., it may not be wise to count on help from the Feds anytime soon.

Upcoming hearings in June on other relevant interim charges include the following:

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Senate Criminal Justice, 10:00 a.m., Room E1.028

  • Bail reform: Charitable bail organizations
  • Implementation of SB 1004 (tampering with EM devices)

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Senate Criminal Justice, 9:00 a.m., Room E1.028

  • Stopping child predators’ use of deepfake technology and AI

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Senate Border Security, 10:00 a.m., Room E1.028

  • State and local agencies’ participation in border security

For more information about a specific hearing listed above, click on the link to the committee. For additional questions, contact Shannon.

SB 22 stakeholder meeting

The comptroller’s office held a meeting on Wednesday with representatives for sheriffs, constables, prosecutors, and other county officials to discuss the roll-out of the SB 22 funding program. We didn’t learn much new information, but the meeting gave stakeholders the opportunity to vent over some of the statutory interpretations adopted by the comptroller. That type of “airing of grievances” is sometimes necessary before productive conversations can move a project forward, so the comptroller’s people are to be commended for providing a venue so that could happen.

The prosecutor-related discussion centered on who is to be considered a VAC for purposes of SB 22 funding. The comptroller’s position is that they will allow salary increases with SB 22 money for any prosecutor’s employee whose “primary duty” is that of a VAC. The point was raised that the word “primary” appears nowhere in the statutory duties of VACs to which their own rules refer, but the comptroller’s office believes their interpretation is needed to comply with the spirit of SB 22. (Specifically, they don’t want non-VAC-related staff members being designated as VACs to get around the lack of SB 22 money for supplementing the salaries of general staff members). The good news is that this latest interpretation expands the possible pool of eligible VACs under SB 22 to more than one person per office, as was originally (and erroneously) proposed, but it may still not comport with the real-life jobs performed by employees in some prosecutors’ offices, especially those in the smallest jurisdictions.

Regarding compliance with SB 22 requirements, the comptroller’s office is currently working out those details. (For instance, we expect some sort of written or electronically signed certification will be required of an elected prosecutor regarding a VAC recipient’s “primary duty” qualifications, perhaps similar to what is annually required for assistant prosecutor longevity payments.) Those details will likely be rolled out along with the application for each office’s next cycle of funding, which will vary by a locality’s fiscal year, but comptroller officials indicated their intention to keep things simple this first year as everyone gets comfortable with the process.

TCOLE rules finalized

The proposed TCOLE rules we told you about in last month’s update have now been adopted (after some revisions) and will take effect on September 1, 2025. While that effective date is still 15 months away, don’t sleep on these changes because they will eventually require all prosecutor offices—regardless of size or number of investigators employed—to annually confirm to TCOLE their compliance with new statewide requirements for all entities that employ peace officers, including the adoption and implementation of more than a dozen different model policies and related practices. You can expect to hear more from TCOLE about this in the coming year, but if you have any questions about it at this time, feel free to reach out to them now.

TDCAA publication news

With changes to the numbering scheme of expunction laws on the horizon (rewriting Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 55 into new Chapter 55A, effective Jan. 1, 2025), the 2024 edition of Expunction & Nondisclosure is essential. Appellate prosecutor Andrea Westerfeld (Ellis County and District Attorney’s Office) has made the rules and procedures for expunction and nondisclosure easy to understand, with checklists, sample petitions and orders (all included on a CD) to help simplify the process. The 2024 edition incorporates the newest statutory requirements for expunctions (including expunctions for weapons offenses) and covers all types of nondisclosures as well as caselaw updates for both. To order your copy, click here.

TDCAA award nominations

Is someone in your office going above and beyond the call of duty? Did one of your employees do something marvelous that has been completely forgotten in today’s all-politics-all-the-time news cycle? If so, we have some association awards for which you might consider nominating them.

Suzanne McDaniel Award
The person selected for this award should exemplify the qualities that were so evident in Suzanne (our first Victim Services Director): advocacy, empathy, and a constant recognition of the rights of crime victims. The criteria for nomination are:

  • The person must be employed by a county attorney, district attorney, or criminal district attorney’s office;
  • At least a portion of the person’s job duties must involve working directly with victims; and
  • The person must have demonstrated impeccable service to TDCAA, victim services, and the profession of prosecution.

Oscar Sherrell Awards
The Oscar Sherrell Awards for service to the association is awarded by each section of TDCAA in  recognition of enthusiastic members who excel in TDCAA work, whether it be through a specific activity that has benefited or improved TDCAA or a body of work that has improved TDCAA’s service to the profession of prosecution. The Investigator and Key Personnel boards each select their annual Oscar Sherrell Award winners and present the awards at their individual section conferences.

To nominate someone for either of these awards, please email Jalayne Robinson with the nominee’s name, office of employment, phone number, and a description no longer than 100 words of why you believe the person deserves this award. The nomination must be received by Friday, June 28, 2024. Should you choose to nominate someone, please keep in mind that the person does not have to work in your office or even in your TDCAA region if they meet the criteria above. Anyone in a prosecutor’s office may make a nomination.

Quotes of the Month

“I will be your state rep for HD-21 and I will be your speaker for the Texas House in 2025. This was a true grassroots effort—not the fake grassroots.”
            —House Speaker Dade Phelan, after his narrow win this week.

“My message to Austin is clear: to those considering supporting Dade Phelan as Speaker in 2025, ask your 15 colleagues who lost re-election how they feel about their decision now. You will not return if you vote for Dade Phelan again.”
            —Attorney General Ken Paxton, referencing Phelan-friendly Republicans who were defeated in the March primary, in a political threat delivered via Twitter/X after Speaker Phelan won re-election to his House seat.

“It’s pretty hypocritical. Republicans have always opposed activist judges, and this seems to be obligating judges to observe and prioritize party over law—which is straight-up judicial activism.”
            —Summer Wise, former member of the state GOP’s executive committee, commenting upon a controversial new change to the party’s rules that would bar any public official censured by the party—including a judge or prosecutor—from appearing on a GOP primary ballot for two years.

“[Past party leadership] may have hinted, they may have whispered, they may have alluded to these groups, but they never would have been fully on board with anything that they were formally doing.”
            —Brandon Rottinghaus, U of H political science professor, as quoted in response to the news that the incoming chair and vice-chair of the Texas GOP have showed overt support for the secessionist Texas Nationalist Movement.

“The huge amount of money brother Phil and I spent was worth every penny!”
            —Excerpt from a congratulatory tweet to new State Rep.-elect Katrina Pierson (R-Rockwall) by millionaire ex-state senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas), who kindly (if unwittingly) encapsulated the truism behind this election cycle: Follow. The. Money. (But then, hasn’t that always been the case? The only thing that changes is whose money is being spent.)

“[The hemp bill] was meant to give agriculture a new product for the market, specifically in the fiber market, and as predicted, when I passed that, I said ‘If you guys screw this up by being cute and getting people high from it, there will be consequences.’ … I’m disappointed, but I’m not, I’m not surprised that we are here today because clearly, it was foretold this could happen, and now we’ve got people getting high off of something in Texas that we have said ‘we don’t do,’ and it is by virtue of a very cute industry making a lot of money at people’s expense. So, I hope we fix this. It’s time. It’s past time, actually.”
            —State Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), member of the Senate State Affairs Committee and author of the bill that legalized hemp, during that committee’s interim hearing on that topic this week.

“[It’s] kind of sexy, frankly.”
            —Former Governor Rick Perry, on being called a “RINO” (Republican in name only) due to his campaigning for Speaker Phelan.