Week in Review: A Digest of What Happened This Week at the Capitol

March 29, 2019

Legislative News

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The Week Behind Us and the Week(s) Ahead of Us – In a late-night meeting after the House voted out its budget (and the supplemental budget), a House committee voted out HB 2 and a Senate committee talked more about property taxes. Constables testified in support for more training for themselves, the Senate is cracking down on human trafficking, and an ISD economic development tool made its way out of its committee of origin.

Civil Process Education for Constables - Yesterday, House County Affairs heard HB 1415 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-Laredo) which would require 20 hours of civil process continuing education training for all constables once every four-year training cycle.  Currently, this training is optional and is offered through many avenues. Rep. Lucio III laid out a committee substitute which makes it permissive as to which entity can teach civil process.

Travis County Constable Carlos Lopez (Pct. 5), TAC Board Member and Constables Legislative Chair of the Justices of the Peace and Constables Association (JPCA), testified in favor of the bill.  He explained that the current required constable education program emphasizes leadership and management topics, which are indeed needed once every four years. However, there is no focused required training on the complex civil laws of the property code, civil practice and remedies code and many others codes and statutes. Additionally, he testified that “training in this specialty area of law will reduce the liability for county government.” The committee sub was withdrawn and the bill was left pending in committee.

The Senate companion SB 1811 by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) has been referred to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.  If supportive, we encourage you to contact the members of House County Affairs and Senate Criminal Justice to voice your support.

Stop Human Trafficking Bill - On Mar 27 the Committee Substitute SB 20, the omnibus human trafficking bill by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), was amended on the Senate floor, and was passed out unanimously. The Senate added two floor amendments that take into consideration feedback from the stakeholders, Governor, and Attorney General. It removes article 5, which deals with non-disclosure; article 6, which would have required monthly reports of massage schools being sent to TDLR; and article 7, which is identical to SB 498 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and will move on its own.

The bill restructures the criminal penalties for offenses of prostitution, trafficking of persons, and the admissibility of certain evidence and orders of nondisclosures for persons convicted of certain offenses. The bill provides a judge the discretion to suspend certain fines and fees and increase the penalty for certain prostitution offenses. New offenses of “online promotion of prostitution” and “aggravated online promotion of prostitution” are defined. The bill utilizes more community supervision and makes changes to the statutes addressing the admission of evidence and orders of nondisclosure for certain victims. The bill would establish guidelines and requirements for the regulation and licensing for massage therapy establishments, schools, students, and therapists. Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) has the companion HB 15 that is set to be heard in House Criminal Jurisprudence on Apr. 1.

Chapter 313 AbatementsHB 2129 by Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) would extend the expiration date of Subchapters B and C of Chapter 313 of the Tax Code (Texas Economic Development Act) from Dec. 31, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2032. The bill was voted out of the Ways & Means Committee on Mar. 27 and is on its way to the House floor. The estimated cost to the Foundation School Program grows over time from $0.1 million in 2025 to $165.6 million in 2029. Estimated school levy losses in the years 2030 through 2049 are approximately $9.6 billion.

District & County Attorney Pay - HB 2384 by Chairman Leach (R-Plano), relating to judicial compensation, has a committee substitute which includes district and county attorneys. The bill was heard in House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on Mar. 18 and left pending, but Employee Retirement System (ERS) indicated the committee substitute increases retirement benefits for current retirees beyond what is actuarially sound so it will likely be removed in a new committee substitute.

Limiting City and Counties Legal Services - HB 2826 by Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) would limit a county’s or city’s ability to utilize contingency fee contracts for legal services by requiring the attorney general to approve such arrangements. The bill was heard in House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence on Mar. 25 and left pending. The bill is supported by tort reform-type advocates, Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR), and opposed by the county attorneys and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA). The bill is eligible for a vote as early as this upcoming Monday.

Helpful Tracking Links for Legislation

  • County Bills by Office as tracked by the Texas Association of Counties.
  • Senate and House committee postings are available on Texas Legislature Online.
  • MyTLO section of Texas Legislature Online – use it to create customized alerts for specific committee meetings or to track specific bills.