Week 21? Yes, Week 21 (and then some). We know the Legislature meets in regular session for only 20 weeks, but we had to tie this off and knot it somehow, and a 21st update on the 21st day of June 2021 just seemed to make sense.
Governor Abbott vetoed 20 bills on Friday, bringing his total to 21 for the 87th Regular Session. Those vetoes include:
- HB 686 by Moody granting early parole consideration to certain youthful offenders
- HB 787 by Allen relating to probationers’ contact with other offenders
- HB 1193 by Wu relating to the sealing of certain juvenile determinate sentencing records
- HB 2448 by Canales discharging a surety’s liability for offenders taken into federal custody for immigration purposes
- SB 1 by Nelson, the state’s General Appropriations Act (more on that below)
- SB 36 by Zaffirini relating to hazing
- SB 237 by Bettencourt authorizing cite and release for criminal trespass
- SB 281 by Hinojosa limiting forensic hypnosis in criminal investigations
- SB 474 by Lucio, III regulating the outdoor tethering of dogs
- SB 1458 by Zaffirini mandating the use of standardized protective order forms
For a full list of all the bills vetoed by the governor after this session, along with the veto statements explaining each action, click here.
One bill not vetoed was HB 558 by White/Hall relating to blood draws following certain motor vehicle collisions. Some prosecutors—along with the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association—asked the governor to veto that bill because of its potential conflict with the constitutional requirements laid out in Missouri v. McNeely and State v. Villarreal, but the bill will now become law on September 1, 2021. That will be one of many new laws that have potential negative consequences for unwary peace officers or prosecutors, so we will cover it in detail in our upcoming Legislative Update CLEs.
Bills that took immediate effect this past week include:
- HB 1281 by Wilson/Schwertner legalizing the operation of certain low-powered vehicles (effective June 15)
- HB 2357 by Reynolds/Miles excepting certain autopsy reports and certain information related to crime victims from public disclosure (eff. June 14)
- SB 49 by Zaffirini/Murr facilitating the sharing of information regarding defendants suspected of having a mental illness or intellectual disability (eff. June 18)
- SB 1827 by Huffman/Holland creating an opioid abatement account (eff. June 16)
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.
Rest while you can, because the conventional wisdom is that the governor will summon legislators back to Austin for a 30-day special session not long after the July 4th holiday weekend. The expectation is that this first called session will include bail reform and “election integrity” legislation, while redistricting is not expected to be taken up until October (after the official federal census data is available). Other topics for which Governor Abbott has recently expressed support for adding to the call of a summer special session include:
- refining the regular session’s ban on teaching critical race theory
- prohibiting social media platforms from censoring or banning (conservative) users
- restoring Article X funding in the state budget
The latter refers to the need to fund the legislative branch of state government in the upcoming biennium after the governor line-item-vetoed its funding from SB 1 (the state budget) to make sure Democrats don’t try to break quorum again during a special session to defeat another election-related bill. That line-item veto was an unprecedented move guaranteed to turn up the heat on an already volatile partisan issue (and perhaps even generate some litigation on our constitutional separation of powers), but how that all ends is anyone’s guess.
With the close of the veto period comes the inevitable game of political dominoes as various legislators announce their intentions to move up, move out, or hold fast. We generally leave updates on political match-ups to your digital fish-wrap of choice, but sometimes they can change the situation at the legislature even before the election. For example, the recent news that State Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) is running for Land Commissioner created a vacuum in that chamber because she chaired the Senate Nominations Committee. In response, the lieutenant governor assigned the following new duties:
- State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels): Chair of the Nominations Committee
- State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills): Chair of the Veterans & Border Security Committee (formerly chaired by Campbell)
- State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown): Chair of the Business & Commerce Committee (formerly chaired by Hancock)
- State Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood): Chair of the Administration Committee (formerly chaired by Schwertner)
Legislative Update CLEs
If this final legislative update of the 87th Regular Session whets your appetite for more, wait until you see our full Legislative Update CLE later this summer! We will primarily be offering that program online this year starting in mid- to late-August; more details are available here.
For those of you who still prefer the in-person approach, we have opened registration for a live update in Rockwall on Thursday, August 12, from 1:00–5:00 p.m. (offered in conjunction with—but separate from—our Investigator Conference, and attendance is limited by room capacity). We will also offer a live legislative update CLE on Tuesday, September 21, in Galveston in conjunction with our Annual Criminal & Civil Law Conference; click here for advanced details on that offering.
Some articles that you might find interesting:
- “Gov. Greg Abbott has lifted almost all Texas pandemic restrictions. But not the one limiting jail releases.” (Texas Tribune)
- “Analysis: The 2021 Texas House, from left to right” (Texas Tribune)
- “Analysis: The 2021 Texas Senate, from left to right” (Texas Tribune)
- “2021: The Best and Worst Legislators (Texas Monthly)
Quotes of the Week
“I think I’m not going to engage. I’ll consider this halftime of this game, knowing that we’re going to be able to come back for at least two special sessions. … We just didn’t get it done in the first half, but we look forward to getting it done in the second half.”
—Governor Greg Abbott (R), when asked who was to blame for the failure of SB 7, the “election integrity” bill.
“That’s up to the House. In fact, anything the Senate says—or I say—they’ll do just the opposite, so I’m staying out of that.”
—Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R), when asked if the House should choose a new speaker.
“There’s no reason to have a special session to talk about a hurricane. If you have a hurricane, you don’t need to be in Austin. I need to be boots on the ground.”
—House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), who represents a district along the Gulf coast, explaining how House-Senate negotiations over HB 3 (to limit the governor’s power during disasters) broke down over the Senate’s insistence on language requiring a special session be called to continue any disaster declaration for more than 30 days, which the House wanted to limit to pandemics, not natural disasters.
“Trump never built a wall, Mexico didn’t pay for it, and Abbott’s not gonna build a wall. The only thing Texans are gonna pay for is a waste of taxpayer dollars on legal bills.”
—Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), who disparaged the governor’s recent announcement that Texas would build a border wall as “political theater.”
[This will be our last update of the 87th Regular Session, but we’ll be back at it as soon as the governor calls the legislature back to Austin.]