Only 31 days left to this regular session. (Serenity now!)
The Senate is basically done until Monday, while the House is still debating bills on the floor as we send this out. It’s been a busy week due to the Easter break—for example, we were at the Capitol until 2am this morning finishing up yesterday’s hearings—so this update will be a tad skimpy, with more information to follow this weekend.
Judicial branch pay raises
House Bill 2384 by Leach (R-Plano), the tiered pay raise bill that includes district and county attorneys, has been set for debate on the House floor sometime on Monday, April 29 (although it could be pushed back a day or two). The fiscal note has been updated to include county attorneys, but we are still working with the author to resolve the 2.0-vs.-2.3 multiplier error we briefed you about last week. This bill may be your lone opportunity for a pay raise from this legislature, so now is the time to contact your state representative(s) and let them know you want one!
Grand jury hearing
On Wednesday, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee took testimony on SB 1492 by Whitmire (D-Houston), the Senate version of grand jury reform. Harris County DA Kim Ogg, Midland County DA Laura Nodolf, Coryell County DA Dusty Boyd, Galveston County CDA Jack Roady, 46th (Vernon) DA Staley Heatly, and Kenedy & Kleberg County DA John Hubert all provided expert testimony in opposition to the bill. There was significant discussion among the committee members about the system in general and whether an interim study might be in order—one that would look at how Texas’ felony charging practices compare to other states and what might be more suitable for a modern, 21st-century court system. That suggestion was well-taken by several prosecutors opposing the bill, but the advocates and public figures pushing the bill behind the scenes may not be convinced that they need to throw in the towel and go that route just yet. The bill was left pending due to lack of a voting quorum, but the chairman could call a vote on his bill at any time next week. Meanwhile, the Senate bill’s near-companion in the House, HB 2398 by S. Thompson (D-Houston), remains pending in that chamber’s Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. If you know members of those House or Senate committees, feel free to reach out and remind them of your position; we know certain current and former statewide officials are still lobbying hard for these bills, so you should too!
Updates on other major issues
Here’s a run-down of where some other issues that we’ve been following this session currently stand (listed alphabetically):
AG’s expanded authority: HB 3979 by Leach (R-Plano) is now in the House Calendars Committee, where we expect General Paxton and his staff to continue advocating for it to be put on the House calendar for full debate. The Senate companion, SB 1257 by Huffman (R-Houston), has been referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and awaits consideration—although that may be a perfunctory one because the companion bill has already had a public hearing.
Asset Forfeiture: HB 1615 by Schaefer (R-Tyler) to require the State to disprove the innocent owner defense will head to the House Calendars Committee as soon as the paperwork is put in order.
Death penalty: HB 1139 by S. Thompson (D-Houston) to require pre-trial determination of intellectual disability in death penalty cases was on the House floor calendar for yesterday but was not reached on the calendar due to other business; it is likely to be considered Monday or Tuesday of next week. Note that we expect it to be amended on the floor to address some prosecutors’ concerns about the timing of this hearing and the State’s right to appeal; if you need more information about that, contact Shannon.
Deferred adjudication for certain DWIs: HB 3582 by Murr (R-Junction) is set for consideration on the House floor next week.
Restrictions on legislative input: HB 281 by Middleton (R-Wallisville) remains stuck in the House Calendars Committee but its proponents are trying hard to get it set for a floor debate. SB 29 by Hall (R-Edgewood) passed the Senate and has been received in the House, but it has not yet been referred to a House committee. It also does not have a House companion pending elsewhere (a good sign for those concerned about it).
Bills in House Calendars Committee
There are currently more than 600 bills in the House Calendars Committee, of which we are tracking more than 160. We are going to list here some of those tracked bills on which prosecutors testified for or against. If you support or oppose any of them and know members of that committee, consider letting them know.
Those bills include: HB 24 (FV enhancement if child is present), HB 64 (expunging deferred adjudications), HB 176 (no waiver of expunction/OND rights), HB 281 (limits on local gov’t lobbying), HB 309 (indecent assault), HB 1223 (custody interference), HB 1609 (protecting grand jurors’ names), HB 1635 (CSCD pretrial diversion funding), HB 1753 (early release from parole), HB 1771 (decriminalizing prostitution if < 18), HB 1936 (no death penalty if serious mental illness), HB 2003 (contingent fee agreements), HB 2134 (limits on medical experts in CPS cases), HB 2260 (non-lawyer JP blood draws), HB 2826 (contingent fee agreements), HB 3331 (CPS investigations), HB 3402 (walking quorums), HB 3512 (probation reforms), and HB 3800 (human trafficking case reporting).
Yesterday was the first time this session that the House did not complete its daily calendar of bills to be considered on the floor. (That’s what happens when the TABC sunset bill turns into a Christmas tree on which members try to hang all their dead booze bills as amendments!) The House will now “roll the calendar,” which means bills that should’ve been heard this week will be heard early next week, with subsequently-calendared bills also being pushed back, and so on and so on. Bills scheduled to be debated early next week include (in order of appearance on the calendar): HB 629 by Landgraf (protective order registry), HB 3106 by Goldman (sex assault investigation information-sharing), HB 4009 by Toth (victim-offender mediation), HB 63 by Moody (civil infraction for POM [to be amended on floor into a Class C criminal penalty]), HB 1139 by S. Thompson (intellectual disability in death penalty cases), HB 2730 by Leach (anti-SLAPP civil actions), HB 1528 by Rose (reporting of family violence findings in Class Cs), HB 2384 by Leach (judicial branch pay raises), HB 354 by Herrero (providing police officers and firefighters an exemption from jury duty), HB 2303 by Moody (legalizing certain fantasy sports betting), HB 2048 by Zerwas (DRP repeal), HB 3582 by Murr (DWI deferred adjudication), and HB 2321 by Morrison (enhancing penalties for illegal oyster harvesting).
In the Senate, bills eligible to be considered as of Monday include: SB 11 by Taylor (omnibus school safety bill), SB 562 by Zaffirini (incompetency commitments), SB 653 by Hall (ban on red light cameras), SB 691 by Johnson (ending automatic DL suspension for drug convictions), SB 970 by Creighton (contingent fee agreements), and SB 1125 by Hinojosa (video teleconferencing for forensic analyst testimony).
Here are summaries of relevant committee notices posted for Monday. Senate bills being heard in House committees (and vice-versa) have a high likelihood of passage if they are being heard this early. We may supplement this list in a subsequent update if more committees post relevant notices.
Monday, April 29
House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence – 8:00 a.m., Room E2.026
- SB 346 by Zaffirini consolidating state and local court costs
- HB 2936 by Hinojosa revising notice and filing requirements in certain mental health proceedings
Senate State Affairs – 9:00 a.m., Senate Chamber
- HB 121 by Swanson increasing notice requirements for certain handgun trespass cases
- HB 1996 by Leman requiring immigration admonitions to be given orally and in writing
House Criminal Jurisprudence – 2:00 p.m. or upon adjournment, E2.012
- HB 949 by Minjarez increasing punishments for certain aggravated assaults
- HB 977 by Thierry relating to financial abuse of the elderly
- HB 1073 by Meyer increasing the statutes of limitations for certain crimes against children
- HB 1317 by Moody altering the compensation of certain court-appointed attorneys
- HB 1513 by Coleman adding gender identity or expression to the hate crimes statute
- HB 1719 by S. Thompson reducing penalties for certain Penalty Group 1 offenses
- HB 2258 by Smith requiring ignition interlock as a condition of bond in certain DWI cases
- HB 2388 by Landgraf increasing the penalty for DOC-Peeping Tom
- HB 2749 by Neave creating grants for pretrial diversion of pregnant defendants
- HB 3027 by Ramos relating to orders of non-disclosure for certain trafficking/prostitution cases
- HB 3031 by Calanni requiring sex offender registration for certain prostitution and online solicitation cases involving child victims
- HB 3426 by S. Thompson creating a new subsequent writ based on non-scientific evidence
- HB 3920 by Dutton creating the Inmate Legal Services Office
- HB 3956 by Hefner facilitating the testimony of a witness with a disability
- HB 3982 by Leach creating an offense for providing material support to foreign terrorists
- HB 4341 by Collier increasing penalties for making a firearm accessible to a child
- HB 4375 by Stephenson relating to anti-theft electronic monitoring devices
- HB 4602 by J. Gonzalez changing the culpable mental state for organized retail theft
Here are some stories and articles we don’t have time to summarize, but they might be of interest to some of you:
Travis DA making new rules for small-amount drug cases (Austin American-Statesman)
Jacqui Saburido, the face of campaigns against drunken driving, dies at 40 (Austin American-Statesman)
Gun rights activist wants House Speaker to apologize (Texas Tribune)
Quotes of the Week
“I’m always struggling to recruit and retain staff. Why would you want to go work behind bars and get spit on or sworn at?”Dr. Joseph Penn, director of mental health services for TDCJ.
“It is reckless and irresponsible for a district attorney, or any public official, to say theft for less than $750 is not going to be prosecuted. That is legalizing stealing for property less than $750. What kind of message does that send, for one? But for another—listen, if your district attorney wants to change the law, he’s in the wrong job. He needs to run for the legislature and come here to try to change the law. His job, his oath, is to enforce the law that exists, and he should prosecute anybody for stealing anything!”Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Houston), criticizing a new policy announced by Dallas County Criminal DA John Creuzot (D), on KXAS-TV’s Lone Star Politics last weekend (video here starting at 16:00 mark).
“We’re pretty liberal when it comes to pretrial diversion. He took his punishment and it was done.”El Paso DA Jaime Esparza, referring to the resolution of presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s 1998 DWI charge.