In anticipation of everyone (except us) preparing to enjoy a long holiday weekend, we are posting this update a day early.
It feels like a month’s worth of news has happened in the past four days. You’ve probably already seen most of that in your news source of choice, so we’ll ignore the more soap opera-ish storylines coming out of Austin and focus on the status of various bills, etc.
Four days remain before sine die on Memorial Day. Hundreds of bills have been sent to the governor. The only other measures still alive are those that have passed both chambers in different forms and must be reconciled before midnight on Sunday, May 28.
We always hesitate to tell people about bills that did not pass because some readers will inevitably misread them as having passed into law. So, to be clear: These bills are no longer moving. These bills failed to pass before this final week’s deadlines. These are dead bills. Dead.
OK, the list of now-dead bills includes:
HB 213 by Moody/Springer (“Second Looks” bill for youthful violent offenders)
HB 218 by Moody (cannabis penalty revisions)
HB 362 by Oliverson (legalization of fentanyl testing strips)
HB 381 by S. Thompson (procedure for barring intellectually disabled from death penalty)
HB 727 by Rose (procedure for barring the seriously mentally ill from death penalty)
HB 1667 by Jetton/Paxton (removing or reducing duties to report child abuse or neglect)
HB 1736 by Leach (limiting death penalty for those convicted under law of parties)
HB 2345 by Guillen (legalizing poker and poker rooms)
HB 2696 by Howard (expanding definition of lack of consent for sexual assaults)
HB 3183 by Schatzline (limiting the use of in-custody informants)
HB 3659 by Hefner (asset forfeiture reforms)
HB 3882 by Wilson (veterans court admission over prosecutor’s objection)
HB 4507 by Moody/Alvarado (county attorney DTPA actions for price gouging during disasters)
HB 4518 and HJR 172 by Cook (prosecutor-initiated resentencing)
HB 5159 by Bhojani (authorizing jury arguments after Allen charges)
SB 21 by Huffman/Leach (“rogue judge” sanctions)
SB 740 by Huffman/Oliverson (urban prosecutor protections against budget cuts)
SB 950 by Kolkhorst/Leach (OAG representation of local prosecutors sued in federal court)
SB 1318 and SJR 44 by Huffman/Smith (bail reform)
SB 2208 by Parker/DeAyala (expanded venue for Election Code crimes and related prosecutions)
SB 2424 by Birdwell/Hefner (criminal offense of illegal entry from a foreign nation) (*but this language is still alive after being amended onto HB 7)
SB 2593 by Springer/Moody (peace officer defense for using less-lethal devices)
As noted above re: SB 2424, we have to give you the general caveat with a list like this: The language from dead bills can re-appear as late amendments to other bills still moving through the process, so please remember what Yogi Berra never said until he said it: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
Here’s the latest news we have.
Pay parity bill
Senate Bill 2310 by Hinojosa/Smith has passed both chambers and been sent to the governor for his consideration. This bill will grant certain elected felony prosecutors a 5-percent salary increase in a manner identical to that enjoyed by the judges (which may get even better depending on how HB 2779 gets resolved; more on that below). Congratulations to the members of TDCAA’s Compensation Committee who identified this as a priority issue for prosecutors and worked to fix it this session. Only one more (gubernatorial) hurdle to clear!
Cross-credit for elected prosecutors and judges
This was another priority issue for the Compensation Committee. The language granting elected judges and prosecutors credit for their service in the other role is part of HB 3474 by Leach/Hughes, this session’s omnibus court administration bill. That bill was approved by the Senate earlier this week after some changes, so now the House must either agree with those changes or go to a conference committee to change them.
Pay raise bill (HB 2779)
The Senate committee substitute version of HB 2779 by Leach/Huffman was approved by the full Senate yesterday after a few more floor amendments. This version of the bill creates a new third tier salary (10-percent pay raise after 12 years) and pushes back the current 5-percent longevity bump to apply after 14 years of service instead of 12. This will benefit some elected prosecutors, as we described in our previous update. It was also tweaked by the Senate to make sure judges benefit from their cross-credit time as prosecutors under this third tier (so if any of your judges have been blowing you up about that, you can put them at ease).
We keep hearing rumors that some judges are still not on board with taking a bird in the hand rather than the illusory two in the bush that they thought they were going to get this session. Only time will tell whether reality triumphs over wishful thinking among that group. Meanwhile HB 2779 will soon be returned to the House, where the bill author can concur with the Senate changes or go to conference over the differences.
Rural prosecutors grant funding
Senate Bill 22 by Springer/Guillen is now in conference to resolve differences between each chamber’s version regarding whether constables should be in the bill, how much money they should receive if so, and what that money can be spent on.
Urban prosecutor budget protections
Senate Bill 740 by Huffman (limiting urban counties’ ability to reduce prosecutor budgets) failed to pass the House before Tuesday’s midnight deadline and is now dead.
Prosecutor accountability bills
House Bill 17 by Cook/Huffman—which is identical to the Senate sponsor’s SB 20—is in a conference committee. Negotiations between the two chambers are on-going, but we are not in the room where that happens. (In truth, there isn’t even a room—most conference stuff gets resolved in one-on-one discussions—but who can resist a Hamilton reference?)
Elsewhere, all AG-prosecution-related bills are dead in the House. (Makes more sense in light of this week’s breaking news, eh?). Senate Bill 2208 by Parker/DeAyala, which would have moved the “neighboring county” venue provision of the Election Code into the Code of Criminal Procedure and applied it to non-Election Code crimes related to an election, is also dead.
Signed by the governor
Bills signed into law by Governor Abbott this past week include:
HB 467 by Craddick/Flores extending the statutes of limitation for certain assaultive crimes
HB 1207 by Guillen/Flores extending the statute of limitation for tampering with a dead body
SB 435 by Middleton/Bonnen authorizing disclosure of certain evidence to victims’ families (effective immediately)
SB 1319 by Huffman/Turner relating to overdose mapping in local communities
SB 1527 by Huffman/S. Thompson, this session’s omnibus human trafficking bill that (among many other things) creates a new Penal Code offense of “child grooming”
SB 2085 by Whitmire/Walle creating a grant program for local online victim notification systems
SB 2101 by Miles/Morales relating to manners of victim notification
The legislature has also finally passed HJR 107 by Price/Hinojosa to place on the ballot in November a proposition asking voters to amend the constitution by increasing the mandatory retirement age for judges from 75 to 79 years of age.
Sent to the governor
Bills on the governor’s proverbial desk or headed that way include:
HB 6 by Goldman/Huffman relating to criminal penalties for fentanyl
HB 1819 by Cook/Hughes repealing the authority of political subdivisions to impose juvenile curfews
HB 730 by Frank/Hughes relating to CPS abuse investigations
HB 1163 by Smith/King creating an offense of BWI with child passenger
HB 1712 by Canales/Alvarado requiring a magistrate’s name appear on certain signed orders
HB 1730 by Schaefer/Hughes increasing penalties for repeated indecent exposures
HB 4504 by Moody/Johnson making nonsubstantive revisions to multiple CCP chapters
SB 1045 by Huffman/Murr creating a 15th Court of Appeals for civil cases involving the state
SB 1361 by Huffman/Burrows creating a new crime for sexually explicit deep fake videos
Bills awaiting final action
Bills that are awaiting a resolution of differences between the versions passed by each chamber include:
HB 7 by Guillen/Birdwell creating a Texas Border Force and new crime of improper entry (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
HB 17 by Cook/Huffman relating to removing prosecutors for certain non-prosecution policies (in conference)
HB 30 by Moody/King relating to closing the “dead suspect loophole” in the PIA (in conference)
HB 55 by Ju. Johnson/Springer increasing penalties for certain indecent assault crimes (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
HB 422 by VanDeaver/Perry relating to certain remote proceedings in juvenile matters (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
HB 800 by Guillen/Flores enhancing punishments and imposing mandatory minimum sentences for various human smuggling-related conduct (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
HB 1227 by Metcalf/Bettencourt making child pornography a 3g crime (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
HB 2779 by Leach/Huffman relating to judicial branch pay raises (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
HB 3474 by Leach/Hughes, this session’s omnibus court administration bill which includes cross-credit salary language (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
HB 4635 by Guillen/Flores creating civil and criminal penalties for racketeering (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
HB 4843 by Holland/Huffman increasing penalties for certain felony offenses involving firearms (awaiting House decision to concur in Senate amendments or go to conference)
SB 22 by Springer/Guillen creating grant programs for rural law enforcement agencies and prosecutors (in conference)
SB 409 by Hinojosa/Leach relating to crime victims’ rights (awaiting adoption of conference committee report that removes mandamus/injunction language added by House)
SB 991 by Hinojosa/Leach creating a DPS crime lab discovery portal (awaiting Senate decision to concur in House amendments or go to conference)
SB 1445 by Paxton/Goldman, the TCOLE sunset reauthorization bill (in conference)
SB 1727 by Schwertner/Canales, the TJJD sunset reauthorization bill (awaiting Senate decision to concur in House amendments or go to conference)
Here are some recent stories you might’ve missed:
- “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton likely broke laws, Republican investigation finds” (AP News)
- “As Texas Republican senators march in lockstep, Robert Nichols is willing to break away” (Texas Tribune)
- “Why ‘harm reduction’ is no match for fentanyl” (The Spectator)
- “How tranq has made the fentanyl crisis even worse” (The Spectator)
- “How dots on a map are helping combat the Texas fentanyl crisis” (WFAA News)
- “Author’s incorrect testimony appears to doom Texas bill giving young offenders a second chance” (Houston Chronicle)
- “Lawmakers try again to bar hypnosis-induced evidence from Texas criminal trials” (Texas Tribune)
Quotes of the Week
“What we cannot have—we absolutely cannot have—is a group of citizens who because they didn’t like the outcome [of the 2020 election] were then prepared to take up arms in order to foment a revolution. That’s what you did.”
—U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta, during his sentencing of Oath Keepers’ leader Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in federal prison for seditious conspiracy due to his role in the January 6 attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the presidential election results.
“There seems to be an unfortunate, and I think unprecedented and unnecessary, attack on our judiciary on the other side of this building. We should not hold the entire judiciary hostage for what a couple judges, maybe a handful of judges, in one county in the state have done or failed to do.”
—State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano), announcing on the House floor earlier this week that he was delaying consideration of SB 21 by Huffman (R-Houston) in response to that senate author watering down his HB 2779 (23-percent pay raises for the judiciary). Senate Bill 21 was later killed by Rep. Leach, as reported in a story by the Houston Chronicle.
“It is alarming and very serious having this discussion when millions of taxpayer dollars have been asked to remedy what is alleged to be some wrongs. That’s something we have to grapple with. It’s challenging.”
—State Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction), chairman of the House General Investigating Committee, as quoted in a Texas Tribune article about that committee’s recent hearing into allegations of malfeasance by Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“I ache for the families of the victims, the survivors, and my community. Although I am mindful of the criticism against me for declining public comment about the particulars of the ongoing investigation, I must remain steadfast in my responsibility to see that this investigation is conducted in such a manner as to withstand the inevitable scrutiny and critique which will be lodged upon its completion.”
—Christina Mitchell, 38th Judicial DA, in a statement issued on yesterday’s one-year anniversary of the Robb Elementary School shootings in Uvalde. Her office’s investigation is on-going.
BONUS: For your viewing pleasure, click the following link to view this session’s House blooper reel on YouTube (14 minutes long).