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: June 2022

June 29, 2022

It’s been a whopper of a news month, hasn’t it? We hardly know where to begin.

Dobbs opinion

Last Friday, we sent all of you an analysis of the potential impact of the Dobbs opinion on Texas law; if you missed that email, you can find it on our website here. Our analysis focused on last session’s “trigger law” legislation that we had not previously summarized due to that law’s contingent effective date (which is still up in the air as this update goes to press), as well as some observations about other new and old (and VERY old) laws that may now come into play when discussing the legality of elective abortions.

As we predicted on Friday, the legal battles have already begun over what is or is not prosecutable after Dobbs. The status of various lawsuits and injunctions and appeals will change faster than we can provide everyone with updates, so please keep yourself up to date on those developments if this is an issue that impacts your office.


The summer of even-numbered years is usually a slow time for the Texas Legislature, but the events in Uvalde kicked interim legislative committees into overdrive this past month. House and Senate leadership created special committees to review the horrific events at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, and multiple other committees held hearings on topics within their subject matter jurisdiction that might be relevant to what happened. There were too many committee hearings for us to summarize in this space, but here are some quick take-aways:

  • Fuggetaboutit #1: The governor is not calling a special session to respond to the Uvalde massacre (or any other news event between now and the November elections).
  • Fuggetaboutit #2: There will be no new laws to limit gun access or possession next session (barring a dramatic change in the partisan make-up of the Lege).
  • There have been encouraging signals from the Lege about increasing forensic mental health funding and resources; everything is still on the table, so now is the time to engage with your local reps and senators to make your needs known.
  • In that vein, kudos to Burnet CA Eddie Arredondo and First Asst CA Colleen Davis, who testified before a joint hearing of the House Corrections and County Affairs Committees on rural mental health needs (including authorizing and funding regional mental health centers and diversion courts along with more resources for mental illness identification and diversion, especially for juveniles and low-level offenders).

Other (non-Uvalde massacre) committee news

The House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee examined the proliferation of illegal gambling in Texas in all its many forms—daily fantasy sports, 8-liners, poker rooms, brush track races, etc.—including testimony from Potter CA Scott Brumley on the legal and practical challenges faced by prosecutors who wish to enforce the (inadequate) anti-gambling laws currently on the books.

The House Corrections and House County Affairs Committees met jointly to review the availability of behavioral health services for offenders in the criminal justice system. TDCJ reported that it has currently filled only 57 percent of its staffing needs, while its inmate population is at ~118,000, a 15 percent decrease from pre-COVID levels. The agency also reported that more than half of the ~42,000 new inmates it processes every year have chemical dependency issues and more than one-quarter have mental health issues. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) also reported that approximately one-half of all jail inmates have mental health concerns at intake.

The Sunset Advisory Commission reviewed agency reports on TCEQ and TJJD. In regard to the latter agency, the commission heard that TJJD is in crisis mode (again), with only 60 percent of its staffing needs fulfilled and up to 30 percent of new hires quitting in the first few months of their jobs after they complete their training. The agency cannot staff the beds it has, leading the Sunset staff to consider recommending that most juveniles may be better managed at the county level due to the state agency’s inadequacies and limitations. Final recommendations will be made in October; for more on the TJJD review process, click here.

The Senate Finance Committee examined the ~$8.5 billion the state appropriates for mental and behavioral health care each biennium. The average wait for a maximum-security unit (MSU) bed is now 500 days, while the wait for a non-MSU bed is ~230 days; as a result, the number of people on the waiting list has increased more than 50 percent from pre-COVID days. Those increases were attributed to post-pandemic staffing shortages. Witnesses before the committee also discussed finding new ways to restore competency without resorting to the time and expense associated with state hospital commitments, especially for low-level misdemeanor offenders.

Upcoming hearings

Interim charges currently posted for hearings in July include (click on the link for the full notice):

Monday, July 11
Senate Finance
10:00 a.m., Room E1.036
Charge #1: State use of federal COVID-19 relief funds (invited and public testimony)

Tuesday, July 12
Senate Finance
10:00 a.m., Room E1.036
Charges #8 (bail bond reform) and #9 (Operation Lone Star appropriations) (invited and public testimony)

TDCAA Annual Conference

Registration for TDCAA’s Annual Criminal & Civil Law Conference is now open. From jail standards to the ethics of plea-bargaining, this year’s event has something for everyone. If you are looking for a deeper dive into today’s pressing advocacy issues, help with managing the courtroom, or just a chance to catch your breath—this event is for you. Click here to register and see additional details.


Here are a few interesting stories from this past month that you might’ve missed:

  • “Facing exodus of prosecutors, Bexar DA seeking salary boost for his attorneys” (San Antonio Express-News)
  • “Nueces County District Attorney’s Office facing shortage of more than a dozen prosecutors” (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
  • “Justice’s price: Comal County DA pushing for competitive pay to keep talent” (New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung)
  • “Texas’ Juvenile Justice Department could be on the chopping block” (Texas Public Radio)
  • “Opinion: The courts still haven’t figured out how to reconcile science with law” (Washington Post)
  • “The Broken Windows Election: What the recall of Chesa Boudin means for the public safety debate” (Washington Free Beacon)
  • “How a Harris County ‘jury appreciation week’ event led to a murder mistrial” (Houston Public Media)

Quotes of the Month

“[Uvalde ISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo] decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children. … I don’t mean to be hypercritical of the on-scene commander, but … this set our profession back a decade.”
            —Steve McCraw, DPS Director, during his testimony to a State Senate committee convened to review events surrounding the Robb Elementary massacre in Uvalde, at which McCraw laid blame for the hour-long stand-off on Arredondo.

“McCraw has continued to, whether you want to call it, lie, leak … mislead or misstate information in order to distance his own troopers and rangers from the response.”
            —Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, who has accused state officials of selectively releasing information about the school shooting in an attempt to scapegoat local law enforcement.

“Texas as well. #txlege #CJReform”
            —House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), quote-tweeting someone saying that “civil asset forfeiture imperils peoples’ rights to property and due process in Kansas.”

“Remember, guys, we’re trying to build out a nationwide district attorney network. Your local district attorney, as we always say, is more powerful than your congressman. They’re the ones that can seat a grand jury. They’re the ones that can start an investigation, issue subpoenas, make sure that records are retained, etc.”
            —Tim Griffin, legal counsel with the Amistad Project—a GOP-affiliated election-integrity group—discussing its efforts to make inroads with local prosecutors who will be amenable to pursuing claims of election fraud in future elections.

“Carol was a great influence on everybody that joined the office. He gave us great discretion to handle cases in the way we saw fit, but his overriding mission was ‘Do the right thing for the right reason, in the right way,’ and everybody followed that.”
            —Ron Woods, former Harris County prosecutor, commenting upon the passing earlier this week of Carol Vance, whose illustrious career of public service included serving as Harris County DA from 1966 to 1979. [TDCAA will offer further reflections on Mr. Vance’s life of service in a future publication.]