Interim Recap: November 2018

We’ve just wrapped up another successful Elected Prosecutor Conference in San Marcos—hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did! If you joined us, please don’t forget to complete your online evaluations so we can make next year’s conference even better.

New officers

Several positions were filled at our annual business meeting this week. Here are the new TDCAA officers for 2019:

Board ChairJennifer Tharp, Comal County CDA
PresidentJarvis Parsons, Brazos County DA
President-ElectKenda Culpepper, Rockwall County CDA
Secretary/TreasurerJohn Dodson, Uvalde County CA
Region 1 DirectorLeslie Standerfer, Wheeler County CA [*corrected*]
Region 2 DirectorHardy Wilkerson, 118th Judicial DA (Glasscock/Howard/Martin Cos.)
Region 4 Director:Isidro “Chilo” Alaniz, 49th Judicial DA (Webb/Zapata Cos.)
Region 7 DirectorSharen Wilson, Tarrant County CDA

Please congratulate these new members of our board of directors!

Welcome your new peers

Earlier this month we sent you a list of candidates who won contested races, but there are plenty of other new prosecutors taking office on January 1, 2019. Here’s the full list (by county), for those of you who asked:

Bexar County CDA-electJoe Gonzales
Cass County CDA-electCourtney Holland Shelton
Dallas County CDA-electJohn Creuzot
Dickens County CA-electAaron Clements (recently appointed)
Fort Bend County DA-electBrian Middleton
Grayson County CDA-electBrett Smith
Gregg County CDA-electTom Watson
Harrison County CDA-electReid McCain
Jasper County CDA-electAnne Pickle
Loving County CA-electStephen Simonsen (recently appointed)
Lubbock County CDA-electSunshine Stanek
McLennan County CDA-electBarry Johnson
Smith County CDA-electJacob Putman
Tyler County CDA-electLucas Babin
Van Zandt County CDA-electTonda Curry
Victoria County CDA-electConstance Filley Johnson
Walker County CDA-electWill Durham
Wichita Falls County CDA-electJohn Gillespie

If you see an old friend or new neighbor on this list, don’t be shy about sharing your wisdom and other hard-learned lessons with this newest batch of elected prosecutors.

Habemus Speaker?

Nothing is ever official until the votes are actually counted, but it appears that current Speaker Pro Tem of the House, State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), will be the next occupant of the Big Cushy Chair in the House. The presumptive speaker is assembling a staff and outlining an agenda for this session focused on fixing the state’s school finance system. We doubt this shift in House leadership will result in any significant change in Texas criminal justice policy, but only time will tell whether that guess is accurate. (That’s what makes political change exciting, right?)

Bills and bills and bills and bills

Legislators started filing bills on the Monday after the general election, and as of the Thanksgiving break, 600 bills had been pre-filed for the 2019 session, of which we are tracking 175 (29%). If historical trends hold, then the final number of pre-filed bills will exceed 1,000 separate pieces of legislation, or about 15 percent of the expected total of ~7,000 bills filed this session.

To follow along with what is being filed, be sure to use our three bill tracking buttons (Penal Code, CCP, and Bills to Watch) on the Legislative page of our website. Note also that those are just three of the more than 30 separate categories we use to keep track of legislation during a session, so if you are interested in something that does not show up on those three tracks, contact Shannon for more information. But just remember—no matter how good or bad a pre-filed bill looks, nothing can happen to it for another 10 weeks or so, so keep your powder dry!

Legislative rotation sign-up now open

As you know, TDCAA can serve as your eyes and ears at the capitol, but the voice legislators need to hear is yours. To help you do that, we organize a rotating schedule of volunteer slots for prosecutors who wish to come to Austin to be a part of the legislative process. If you would like to plan ahead and schedule a time to spend a few days watching (or helping) the sausage being made, contact Shannon for more details—he can tell you when to come, what to bring, and what to expect. Dates are already filling up, so start thinking about it now!

Schedule for future legislative updates

Our final interim legislative update will go out before the Christmas break. When you return in the new year, these updates will be issued every Friday from January through May.

New mandatory Brady training available online

As announced last month, TDCAA’s new state-mandated Brady training video is now available online through our website. This *FREE* one-hour course can be accessed and completed by going to http://tdcaa.litmos.com/online-courses (or visit our home page) and following the prompts. The TDCAA training crew has been working all year to bring you this new, cutting-edge online training, and we hope you find it to be as informative and engaging as the early evaluations have been.

Quotes of the Month

“The Speaker’s race is over, and the House is ready to work.”

State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), who announced two weeks ago that he has the pledged votes needed to become the next Speaker of the Texas House.

“Those who aspire to be the presiding officer need to remember that this isn’t about their aspirations and ambitions—it’s about the aspirations and ambitions of the people that are voting for them.”

Retiring Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), dispensing advice for those seeking to replace him.

“Some people play golf. I’m in the Legislature.”

Former House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland), the longest-serving member in the history of the Texas Legislature, who is returning to Austin in January for his 25th term.

“The body has been driven the last two cycles by the most conservative members of the Senate. Now [two of the most conservative members] are gone. And guess what? There’s going to be a different driving force.”

Austin lobbyist Bill Miller, on the changing dynamics in the state senate after the defeat of State Sens. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) and Konni Burton (R-Colleyville), two of that chamber’s most conservative members.

“Local control really matters. Those two elections were about that. … We get elected to represent our district, not necessarily the leadership in Austin and certainly not some big dark money group on Congress Avenue. They want all the power that’s vested in local control to sit at Ninth and Congress. I reject that. That’s big government.”

State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), attributing the defeat of State Sens. Don Huffines (R-Dallas) and Konni Burton (R-Colleyville), two of that chamber’s most conservative members, to their allegiance to groups like Empower Texans and the Texas Public Policy Foundation (home of the Right on Crime movement), who oh-by-the-way unsuccessfully tried to oust Seliger in his primary.

“I was shocked. There were a number of very conservative candidates who really narrowly won; I mean razor-thin margins. … I think the trend line to be more conservative next year than you were this year, that’s going to be discontinued. The electorate spoke last night and said, ‘We’ve gone far enough and we want something a little more centrist.’”

Bill Miller, longtime Austin lobbyist, on the election results for the legislature.

“When the state Senate decided to keep straight-ticket voting for one more year, a lot of us thought that was a really dumb decision. It turned out to be even dumber than any of us could’ve predicted.”

Ed Emmett, outgoing County Judge for Harris County, on the legislative decision in 2017 to postpone the end of straight-ticket voting until the 2020 elections, to which many down-ballot Republicans attribute their narrow losses.

“He used a fog machine at his concession speech. He ain’t done.”

Jeff Roe, chief campaign strategist for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, on whether defeated opponent Rep. Beto O’Rourke was done with politics.