TDCAA Legislative Update: Week 20.1 (Sine Die)

June 1, 2021

Close your eyes and visualize how you would feel if you spent five months in trial on the most complicated case you can imagine, only to have the jury hang 11–1 and cause a mistrial.

Yeah, that’s pretty much how we feel right now. #airingofgrievances #serenitynow

Final adjournment

The 87th Regular Session adjourned sine die yesterday without much fanfare because of the pall cast over the proceedings by the prospects of a special session being called—perhaps as quickly as later this month. That unpopular decision was brought about by the House Democrats’ quorum-busting defeat of SB 7 by Hughes/Cain (election reforms). The story made national news, so you don’t need us to tell you what happened, but let’s just say “it didn’t have to go down like that” and leave it at that. What’s done is done.

After sine die, all the cards remaining to be played are in the governor’s hand. Only a governor can call the legislature back into session, and then only to address specific issues selected by the governor. While we await word on the scheduling of any special session, let’s break down what did and didn’t pass before the final meltdown.

Collateral damage

Several bills we were tracking failed to receive final approval due to the fight over SB 7. Those included:

  • HJR 4 (bail) – died in House
  • HB 20 (bail) – died in House
  • HB 492 (no-knock warrants) – died in House
  • HB 2593 (THC edibles) – died in Senate

Of particular importance are the bail reform measures that were among Governor Abbott’s five “emergency issues” for this session, along with expanding broadband internet access, cracking down on “defunding police,” limiting civil liability for businesses open during the pandemic, and “election integrity” legislation. It’s that last one that got all the attention for failing on the final night of the session, but the governor also highlighted the defeat of HJR 4 by Kacal/Huffman and HB 20 by Murr/Huffman as reasons for calling an upcoming special session. The big questions now are, When will it be called? And what else will be on the call?

Everyone already expected a special session over redistricting to be called in October after the federal government’s release in late September of the required census data. Other issues are also likely to be added to that list, but if the legislature is to pass election reforms in time to be effective for the November 2 election—as well as a constitutional proposition on bail (such as HJR 4) to be placed on that ballot—those matters must be addressed sooner rather than later. As a result, we expect the governor to call the 87th Legislature into a special session later this month.

And now you know why we NEVER make summer vacation plans in odd-numbered years.

New laws

As the dust settles, it appears that roughly 215 of the bills we tracked this session made it to the governor’s desk. That’s only 40 (15%) fewer than last session, despite all the additional headwinds faced by the Lege this year. We don’t know whether that’s impressive or depressing.

It will take us about a month to summarize all of the relevant new laws for our Legislative Update book and related publications (pre-orders can be placed here), but while most new laws don’t take effect until September 1, 2021, a few take effect immediately upon being signed. Here are some of the “immediate effect” bills that have already been signed into law:

  • HB 54 by Talarico/Whitmire banning law enforcement participation in reality TV policing shows (effective May 26, 2021)
  • HB 1024 by Geren/Hancock authorizing alcohol-to-go for off-premises consumption (eff. May 12)
  • HB 2536 by Krause/Buckingham narrowing “neglect” circumstances in CPS cases (eff. May 15)
  • SB 315 by Huffman/Hunter applying the Employment Harmful to Children offense to anyone under 21 years of age (eff. May 24)
  • SB 1093 by Creighton/Metcalf relating to regional veterans treatment court programs (eff. May 28)

Curious about any other bills or issues? Contact Shannon with a bill number or issue and he’ll let you know what happened to it.

The final hurdle

Bills on their way to the governor’s desk after successfully running the legislative gauntlet before sine die include:

  • HB 385 by Pacheco/Hughes (probation reforms)
  • HB 686 by Moody/Lucio (early parole for violent youthful offenders)
  • HB 1925 by Capriglione/Buckingham (public camping ban)
  • HB 3774 by Leach/Huffman (omnibus court creation bill)
  • SB 69 by Miles/White (choke holds and excessive force)
  • SB 111 by West/Collier (law enforcement discovery duties)
  • SB 112 by West/Harless (mobile tracking devices and location data)
  • SB 281 by Hinojosa/Lucio III (forensic hypnosis)
  • SB 321 by Huffman/Bonnen (ERS cash benefit plans)
  • SB 1827 by Huffman/Holland (opioid abatement account and settlements)
  • SB 2212 by West/Thompson (officer’s duty to render aid to injured person)

If you know of a bill sent to the governor that you still want to support or oppose before it becomes law, contact Shannon for more details on how to do that effectively. The governor has 20 days after sine die to consider whether to sign or veto bills passed in the final 10 days of a session—which is the vast majority of them. This session, that veto deadline falls on Sunday, June 20 (Father’s Day). To date, Governor Abbott has vetoed just one bill sent to him this session, but more are sure to follow. We’ll follow up later this week with more information about a couple of bills on the governor’s plate that may interest some of you in that regard—including one that both prosecutors and defense lawyers may have concerns about.

Legislative Update CLEs

A confluence of events put into motion by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a change to our normal summer tour of Legislative Updates around the state. For the first time, TDCAA will be offering our popular Legislative Update course online this summer and fall. Although we will miss seeing many of you in person, moving the program online will allow greater flexibility for those of you whose courthouses are springing back to life. And for anyone who prefers in-person training, we intend to offer at least one live presentation on Tuesday, September 21, in Galveston in conjunction with our Annual Criminal & Civil Law Conference, and maybe others after that (depending upon the special session situation.) Stay tuned for more details on all these events in the future!


Some articles that you might find interesting:

  • “Democrats’ defeat of Texas voting bill adds an asterisk to Republicans’ ‘most conservative’ legislative session” (Texas Tribune)
  • “Gun rights in Texas see major expansion as Legislature rejects bills to address gun violence” (Dallas Morning News)
  • “GOP priority bail bill dies in Texas House after Democrats walk out on voting bill” (Texas Tribune)
  • With feelings raw over voting bill’s demise, Texas Legislature wraps up—for now” (Texas Tribune)

Quotes of the Week

“Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas. Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session.”
            —Governor Greg Abbott (R), after House Democrats broke quorum and defeated both measures before sine die.

“I’d normally say I’ll see you in 18 months, but I might see you in 18 days or so.”
            —Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R), as he gaveled out the Senate to adjourn sine die.