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: March 2024

March 28, 2024

We thought we’d send this temporal news out a day early so that those of you who are so inclined can spend the rest of your long holiday weekend focusing on the Good News.

AG proposes new reporting duties for some prosecutors

Earlier this month, the Office of the Attorney General posted in the Texas Register newly proposed rules that would create voluminous, wide-ranging quarterly and annual reporting duties for prosecutors in counties with a population of 250,000 or more people. The posted notice and proposed rules can be found here if you haven’t already reviewed them. (And if you haven’t, you can probably skip the introductory boilerplate analysis and go straight to the underlined rules being proposed, as the fluff at the front appears to have been written with an intent to obscure some of the most outrageous bits.)

A cursory review of these rules will immediately indicate to the discerning reader that this is yet another shot across the bow by those in state government who want to pre-empt, direct, or take over local prosecution of criminal cases. As we told you earlier this month in our primary election update, this nationalized campaign about allegedly “rogue prosecutors” will be a continuing theme of this interim and the next regular session in 2025. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

For now, though, if you have questions about these proposed rules, we encourage you to call Rob Kepple to get the latest information before taking any action.

A speaker race … in March?!?

To make an unusual primary season even crazier, State Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Houston) announced his candidacy for House speaker after current Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) was put to a run-off in his local GOP primary. The earlier-than-early announcement by Dr. Oliverson caught many House members and outside capitol observers by surprise, but as we get deeper into this campaign season, it is becoming clear that the old rules and norms of Texas politics are no longer applicable. Keep that in mind with considering your legislative priorities next session.

New illegal immigration crime still up in the air

Earlier this week, a panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to allow Senate Bill 4’s new immigration-related crimes to take effect while that court takes up matters relating to the constitutionality of those laws. Interested readers can find the 121-page majority and dissenting opinions here. The matter will be reviewed by that court more thoroughly next month, but for now, know that those laws are still in limbo.

For a PDF copy of the relevant changes SB 4 will make to the Penal Code and CCP should it be upheld by the federal courts, click here.

Protective order forms

Those of who you completed our legislative update course or read the related book will recall that Senate Bill 48 required the Office of Court Administration (OCA) to standardize most forms related to protective orders no later than June 1, 2024, and further mandated the use of those forms by courts and practitioners after that date. If you would like to play a role in OCA’s creation and adoption of those standardized forms, you can submit your input or suggested language for consideration, including forms for the application, enforcement, denial, termination, or rescission of a protective order, to [email protected]. This process is already ongoing, so please submit your input as soon as possible.

TDCAA job postings

The Texas District and County Attorneys Association is now accepting applications for the positions of Executive Director and Domestic Violence Resource Prosecutor. For more information or to apply for either position, click the link for each above.

Prosecutor elections

If you are curious to see which remaining prosecutor races involve run-offs or contested November elections, you can find all that information online HERE.

Scattershooting (one final time!)

Some recent stories you might find interesting:

  • “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cuts deal to have fraud charges dropped, trial canceled” (KUT News)
  • “Before deal in Ken Paxton’s fraud case, prosecutor was scrambling to buy more time, find new partner” (Houston Chronicle)
  • “Once the Texas GOP’s ‘weak link,’ Attorney General Ken Paxton is growing more popular and powerful” (Texas Tribune)
  • “Appeals Court Keeps Texas Immigration Law on Pause” (Wall Street Journal)
  • “U.S. Supreme Court hears Texas case on politically motivated arrests” (Texas Tribune)
  • “Under new immigration law, DPS plans to arrest only migrants seen crossing Rio Grande” (Dallas Morning News)
  • “Prosecute a cop? You’ll face removal from office” (The Intercept)

NOTE: This will be our final “Scattershooting” entry in our interim and legislative updates because we are migrating this popular news feature to its own newsletter, the TDCAA Round Up, which will operate in a manner similar to our popular case summaries. You can sign up to receive those relevant news articles in your inbox every Thursday morning by visiting our website here.

Quotes of the Month

“Really, there’s not much left to do, and what is left to do is probably unconstitutional in many cases.”
            —State Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), who finds himself in a primary run-off against a pro-school choice candidate endorsed by Gov. Abbott, when asked during an interview what incumbent House members can do to prove to GOP primary voters they are “conservative” enough to be returned to Austin next session.

“Infighting is common in a state like Texas with one-party domination, but in the past the divide among Texas Republicans was about policy. At present, it’s about personality, and that’s Trump-driven.”
            —Brandon Rottinghaus, political science profession at U of H.

“That’s the problem with [the position taken by Texas] because they can’t articulate what they want to do that’s different from enforcing immigration law, which they are not allowed to do.”
            —Raffi Melkonian, appellate law expert, summarizing his thoughts on the state solicitor general’s arguments to the Fifth Circuit last week in the SB 4 (state immigration crimes) litigation saga.

“I thought it was one of the best speeches he’s ever given. It was very vice-presidential.”
            —Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), referring to a speech Governor Abbott gave (paywall $) at an event sponsored by a conservative think tank in Austin last week.

“I go to bed every night very proud of the courage of my convictions. I think Mr. Paxton, at the end of the day, is just going to have convictions.”
            —House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), when asked if he regretted overseeing the House impeachment of Attorney General Paxton.

“The takeaway is, the prosecutors finally started investigating the case and realized they were going to lose, so they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.”
            —Dan Cogdell, criminal defense attorney for Attorney General Ken Paxton, explaining his theory behind the sudden resolution of his client’s criminal securities fraud case after nine long years.