TDCAA Legislative Update: 88-1 Called Session, Week 1

June 2, 2023

In Tuesday’s update we told you that “those of us who have to follow this circus in person must prepare ourselves for this to become our summer of discontent.” And indeed, things are happening right on schedule in that regard.

Called Session No. 1

Remember that old Zen riddle, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” This week, we can update it to, “What is the sound of one chamber legislating?”

A recap of this week in Austin:

On Monday, the legislature adjourned the regular session sine die around supper time without reaching an agreement on property tax reform. A few hours later, Governor Abbott called a special session to start that same evening with two agenda items: cutting property taxes and increasing penalties for human smuggling-related crimes.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed over to the House a property tax bill that was not the one the governor or House preferred and then it recessed until Friday. The House promptly killed that proposal, sent its own property tax and smuggling bills over to the Senate, and then adjourned sine die and went home. (However, the Senate has not concurred in the House resolution to finally adjourn, so that status of the lower chamber’s “mic drop” moment is in limbo.)

Nothing happened on Wednesday or Thursday other than some mean tweets. (Because that’s how we debate important policy decisions in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty-Three.)

On Friday, the Senate reconvened for 15 minutes, referred bills to its Border Security Committee, and then adjourned until Tuesday evening. Those bills will be heard in that committee Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m. For details, click HERE.

If we knew what the end game was on all this, we’d tell you. But we don’t. (Sigh.)

Impeachment news

Governor Abbott appointed Fort Worth attorney John Scott to serve as interim attorney general until Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial can be held later this summer. Scott is a former interim secretary of state who previously worked at the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) when Abbott ran that agency (among other public service jobs Scott has held).

Six OAG employees announced they were taking a leave of absence to help Paxton’s defense.

The House Board of Managers hired Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin to prosecute the impeachment matter before the Senate.

It will be interesting to see how this property tax rebate impasse between the two chambers—and the resulting acrimony it has caused—plays into an impeachment trial in which one chamber is the prosecution and the other serves as judge, jury, and executioner.

New laws

While the legislature (kind of) works on new bills in this new called session, the governor is still signing bills from the regular session. Bills signed into law this past week include:

  • SB 224 by Alvarado/Leach increasing penalties for catalytic converter theft (eff. May 29)
  • SB 855 by Alvarado/Hull mandating new training for judges on family violence dynamics

Legislative Update CLEs

Based on the success of our pandemic-induced change from in-person Legislative Update CLEs to online presentations in 2021, TDCAA will once again be offering this popular course online. Keep checking our Training webpage for details on when that online course will become available in August 2023.

For those of you who prefer in-person training, we will offer a live Legislative Update presentation on Tuesday, September 19, in Round Rock in conjunction with our Annual Criminal & Civil Law Conference being held that week at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center. Again, check our Training webpage for the latest information.


Here are some recent stories you might’ve missed:

  • “Paxton impeachment leads lawmakers into uncharted legal grounds” (Dallas Morning News)
  • “Meet the Texas House impeachment managers who are taking aim at Ken Paxton” (Texas Tribune)
  • “Cars registered in Texas after 2025 will no longer need to pass a safety inspection, but owners will still pay the fee” (Texas Tribune)
  • “Roadway safety efforts gain traction as Texas legislators tweak laws on passing lanes, speed limits” (Houston Chronicle)
  • “Facing youth prison crisis, Texas lawmakers opt to build new facilities and funnel more kids to adult system” (Texas Tribune)
  • “Viewer’s Guide to Ken Paxton’s Impeachment” (Wall Street Journal commentary by Karl Rove)

Quotes of Sine Die

“Members, I hope you enjoyed your summer—I know I sure did!”
            —House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), gaveling the House into special session on Tuesday less than 24 hours after adjourning its regular session the previous day.

“I want to thank the good Lord for blessing me to be here, my constituents for being intelligent enough to send me, and my colleagues for being gracious enough to tolerate me.”
            —State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), aka “Ms. T” around the capitol, addressing her peers who honored her on the House floor for 50 years of service as a House member. (And she already announced she’s running for re-election next year.)

“If the House thinks after abandoning the Capitol, and walking out on the special session, the Senate is going to pass their ‘take it or leave it’ property tax bill without a homestead exemption, they are mistaken. The Senate is still working. The House can return.”
            —Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), as tweeted earlier this week after the House abruptly adjourned after a one-day special session.

“If you go back to Lt. Gov. [William] Hobby, a moderate Democrat who served under a Republican governor, Bill Clements, there wasn’t anything near this type of public friction. Not even close. And they were polar opposites.”
            —Renée Cross, senior director of UH’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, on the tension between Abbott and Patrick right now.