News Article | April 06, 2023
Week in Review: A Digest of What Happened This Week at the Capitol
Leadership's Priority, Low-Numbered Bills Advance
With just seven weeks remaining in the 88th Legislature, House and Senate priority bills are progressing, alongside the state budget and hundreds of other bills. This week the Senate passed Senate Bill 14 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels). The bill would expose a physician to the revocation of their medical license for prescribing medication or performing surgery to transition the biological sex of a minor. Also on to the House after clearing the Senate was SB 20 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston). The bill would provide a mechanism to remove a prosecutor who adopts or enforces a policy refusing to prosecute a class or type of criminal offense.
In related action, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence passed House Bill 17 by Rep. David Cook (R-Mansfield). HB 17 would expand the definition of official misconduct with regard to district and county attorneys and modify the removal process for those prosecutors who adopt policies or make statements on refusing to prosecute certain classes of offenses.
The House Committee on State Affairs approved legislation to expand sports gambling. HB 2843 by Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin) would authorize casino gambling. HB 1942 by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) would legalize online sports betting.
Galveston County Treasurer Abolishment Halfway to Passage
The Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 28 by Sen. Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) on a 28-3 vote, sending the proposed constitutional amendment that would abolish the office of treasurer in Galveston County to the House. Sens. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), Royce West (D-Dallas) and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) cast the three dissenting votes. Opposition to SJR 28 is the County Treasurers' Association of Texas' highest legislative priority.
House and Senate Committees Hear From County Officials
The Justices of the Peace and Constables Association of Texas testified in support of two bills in the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence meeting this week. Both bills are priorities for the association.
El Paso County Constable Oscar Ugarte and Hood County Constable Chad Jordan testified in support of HB 2338 by Rep. Janie Lopez (R-San Benito), which increases the statutory warrant fee from $50 to $75 for all felonies as well as Class A and B misdemeanors. Class C misdemeanors would remain at $50. The fee has not changed since 1999 and the constables testified that the increase is much needed given the current cost for serving warrants.
Bell County Justice of the Peace Gregory Johnson testified in support of HB 2326 by Chair Joe Moody (D-El Paso). HB 2326 allows a justice of the peace to order certain medical professionals to take a specimen of blood from the body of a person to aid in the confirmation or determination of the cause and manner of death while conducting an inquest.
Staley Heatly, 46th Judicial District Attorney (Foard, Hardeman and Wilbarger counties) and co-chair of the Texas District & County Attorneys Association's legislative committee, testified in support of SB 2310 by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen). SB 2310 was heard in the Senate Finance Committee and would establish pay parity for district attorneys and district judges, with both officeholders receiving a 5% increase in pay after 12 years of service.
Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Lieck, testified in support of HB 3956 by Rep. Reggie Smith (R-Sherman), heard in the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. HB 3956 would expand DNA collection upon arrest to include all felonies, clarifies that DNA collection is the responsibility of the sheriff's office and clarifies expungement procedures. Lieck explained that felony offenders are repeat offenders and this bill is a great way to prevent recidivism by collecting DNA upon first arrest.
House Takes Up Budget Bills
The House began debating House Bill 1 by Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), the 2024-25 appropriations bill, and its committee-substituted version of Senate Bill 30 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), the supplemental appropriations bill for the current budget, on Thursday. Members had submitted 388 floor amendments for HB 1 and 17 for SB 30 by the April 3 deadline set by House rules.
Look for a full report on the House budget action, with county highlights, in next week's newsletter.
County Government Day
The Texas Association of Counties filled the Legislative Conference Center in the Texas Capitol with the smell of barbecue in observance of County Government Day on April 4. County officials from across the state spent the day reaching out to their legislators about issues important to county government.
The day kicked off at 7 a.m. in the TAC Building with Legislative Services' weekly Tuesday Morning Breakfast. County officials then moved to the Capitol where House and Senate resolutions acknowledged County Government Day.
TAC sponsored a barbecue lunch afterward. County officials helped serve Louie Mueller BBQ to lawmakers and their staff, DPS troopers who are part of the Capitol's security detail, other Capitol employees and even a lucky handful of visitors who simply followed their noses.
Legislative Directories Available for Order
Don't forget to order your copy or copies of the Texas Association of Counties' Legislative Directory for the 88th Legislature. The directory includes contact information for TAC's Legislative Services team, leaders and legislative chairs of the county affiliate organizations, members and committees of the Texas House and Senate, and more. Order here.
Week in Review is a collaborative article. For more information, please contact TAC Legislative Services.