Only 10 days left, and the end can’t come soon enough—especially since the House and Senate are both still working as we send this out, and the House will work Saturday while the Senate will work Sunday, leaving us with about 18 hours of “weekend” to enjoy, most of which we hope to spend sleeping.
Expanding AG authority
After being amended on second reading with language that conditions the AG’s prosecution of human trafficking cases on the consent of the local prosecutors, SB 1257 by Huffman/Leach was passed on third reading today by a vote of 120-14 (vote tally available here). The bill was originally scheduled for a vote yesterday but was postponed to give the bill’s proponents more time to whip support for the amended bill on the floor; that work, combined with the floor amendment’s consent language, resulted in the vote margin on the amended version of the bill.
The bill now heads back across the rotunda where the bill’s Senate author must decide whether to concur with the House’s change or not. If the latter, then the Senate and House will appoint a conference committee and agree on a version which is likely to be the original language (without the House floor amendment’s consent requirement). We will let you know if that happens and what comes next.
Meanwhile, in the furious final Senate committee hearings that occurred today, HB 3800 by S. Thompson—which requires some jurisdictions to report certain human trafficking data to the AG—was changed by Senator Huffman in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to include SB 1257’s original language granting the AG original criminal jurisdiction in trafficking cases. That bill now heads to the Senate floor, and if it passes with that new language on it, then it returns to the House to decide whether to keep the amendment or not.
We know more about these events than we can share here, so if you have further questions, contact Rob or Shannon.
Grand jury reform
As it did in 2017, a slimmed-down version of grand jury revisions made it out of the Senate late in the session and—as of 5:00 p.m. today—has just been approved by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. That’s where the bill in 2017 died, but this session’s version—in the form of SB 1492 by Whitmire/Collier, which is very different from last session’s language—is unlikely to meet that same fate this session, so look for it on the floor next week. The danger is that it gets loaded up with amendments on the House floor, but we will watch it for you and let you know if so.
Judicial branch pay raise
House Bill 2384 by Leach/Huffman, the tiered pay raise bill that includes district and county attorneys, was voted from the Senate State Affairs Committee yesterday but the new text is not yet available online. The original layout in that committee still included prosecutors so we assume all is well until we hear differently; when we know more, you will know more.
Limits on local government input
SB 29 by Hall/Middleton, which would limit local government input in the legislative process on certain issues and potentially bar them from paying association dues for their employees, was on today’s calendar but had to be returned to committee to fix a paperwork problem. It now returns to the Calendars Committee for likely consideration next week. That committee also has before it SB 702 by Bettencourt/Harless, which requires county commissioners to publicly vote on legislative expenditures and annually report those expenditures.
Other major issues
Here’s a rundown of where some other issues that we’ve been following this session currently stand (listed alphabetically):
Bail bond reform: HB 2020 by Kacal (R-College Station) was never referred to a committee in the Senate, so it appears there will be no significant statutory changes to pretrial release this session.
Deferred adjudication for certain DWIs: HB 3582 by Murr/Menendez passed the Senate and now returns to the House for that body to concur with the changes made in the Senate.
Driver Responsibility Program repeal: HB 2048 by Zerwas/Huffman passed the Senate today and how returns to the House for it to concur with the Senate’s changes.
Marijuana/hemp/CBD/kitchen sink: HB 1325 by T. King/Perry, which would legalize and regulate hemp—including consumable hemp products like CBD oils and such—was approved by the Senate; it now returns to the House for its consideration of the Senate’s changes. A Senate committee also revised and passed HB 3703 by Klick/Campbell, which will incrementally expand the state’s compassionate use program, and that bill will now head to the Senate floor.
Here are the looming deadlines for bills that have not already passed both chambers:
Sunday, May 19, 10 p.m.: Last House calendar for SBs must be printed
Tuesday, May 21, midnight: Last day for House to pass SBs on 2nd reading
Wednesday, May 22, midnight: Last day for Senate to pass HBs on 2nd & 3rd reading
In other words: The threshing floor will be littered with dead bills by this time next week.
Here are some stories and articles we don’t have time to summarize, but they might be of interest to some of you:
- Inside the story of how Democrats killed a law that could have saved Sandra Bland (Texas Monthly)
- Comptroller increases state budget revenue estimate by another $500 million (Texas Tribune)
- Opinion: Hometown control, freedom under attack in Texas Legislature (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
- Changes looming for pretrial practice in civil cases as bills pass State Senate committee (Texas Lawyer)
- Bill to ban red light cameras is one step from becoming law (Dallas Morning News)
More Quotes of the Week
“The fight against human trafficking requires more investigating and less grandstanding, and local Texas prosecutors stand ready to carry out that mission.”Closing line of an op/ed by Travis County DA Margaret Moore, El Paso County DA Jaime Esparza, and Harris County DA Kim Ogg, written in opposition to SB 1257.
“Have enough bills passed yet transferring more power to the Office of the Attorney General? There are only 12 days left, y’all.”Tongue-in-cheek tweet by Scott Braddock, editor of the Quorum Report.
“We’re officially changing ‘hump day’ to ‘hemp day.’”State Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), laying out his bill to legalize hemp earlier today.
“House Bill 2754 died due to a toxic mixture of incompetence and bad faith in a lawmaking environment that speeds to a blur in the weeks at the end of the session, when it can be difficult for even veteran lawmakers to keep track of what’s going on on the floor. That creates fertile ground for mistakes, and for interest groups to take advantage of those mistakes.”Christopher Hooks, Texas Monthly reporter, on the demise of a bill to limit peace officers’ ability to make arrests for fine-only offenses.
“I think it’s a meaningless, ineffectual way to proceed, and I’m opposed to it, and I’m opposed to how this committee has worked with us, … and to find out as I’m sitting out in the audience that you gutted the entire bill I think is inexcusable, and I’m upset about it. … I may just join you on the bench [sic] next time to make sure that I prevail. In other words, maybe I’ll just run [for state senate] and make sure I can have my voice heard more clearly. This will be the encouragement I need.”Elsa Alcala, policy director for the Texas Defender Service (and former Court of Criminal Appeals judge), arguing with senators on the Senate State Affairs Committee after they narrowed the scope of HB 1139 by S. Thompson/Miles, the bill on intellectual disability and the death penalty. (To watch the entire uncomfortable exchange, click here for the video feed and fast-forward to the 43:35 mark.)