News Article | March 31, 2023
Week in Review: A Digest of What Happened This Week at the Capitol
Past Halfway, Peak Activity Ahead
The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days, but the workload is lopsided. During the first 60 days, thousands of bills are filed, but only legislation given emergency status by the Governor may be acted upon. That leaves 80 days for a proposed law to be approved in both House and Senate committee hearings and in each full chamber. Add May deadlines that further narrow the window of opportunity to change Texas law, and you emerge with a recipe for a lot of dead bills. Come Monday, only 55 days will remain before the 88th Legislature adjourns May 29.
Of the more than 8,000 bills and joint resolutions filed, only around 1,200 have been heard by House and Senate committees. The full House and Senate have approved far fewer, and none has been voted on yet by both chambers. Ultimately around 1,000 bills and joint resolutions will head to the governor or Texas voters for final approval. Lawmakers will enjoy one last breather, with a day off for Good Friday, before a sprint to the finish.
County Officials Continue Advocacy in House and Senate Committees
Bruce Stidham, Grayson County Tax Assessor-Collector and president of the Tax Assessor-Collectors Association of Texas (TACA), testified against Senate Bill 1215 by Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) in the Senate Local Government Committee. The legislation requires the Comptroller to prescribe a statewide form for homeowners to use when acquiring private property-tax services and does not allow a tax assessor-collector to issue a refund to anyone other than the service identified on the form. TACA is concerned the process will confuse property owners and that many will not receive the refunds they are owed, Stidham said. The bill was left pending, and Sen. Paxton and the committee are working with TACA on language to provide additional protections for taxpayers.
Jack Roady, Galveston County District Attorney and chairman of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, testified in support of Senate Bill 991 by Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen), heard in the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. This bill requires the Department of Public Safety to establish a crime laboratory portal to facilitate crime lab record requests and transfer those records between crime labs, prosecutors and defense counsel. Roady said this is a good bill and would help to reduce the risk of someone being wrongfully convicted.
Roady also testified on House Bill 17 by Rep. David Cook (R-Mansfield), heard in the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. This bill adds to the definition of official misconduct and modifies the removal process for a prosecutor who adopts a policy of refusing to prosecute a certain class of offenses. Roady thanked Cook for working with prosecutors on the bill's language and looks forward to reaching a final version of the bill.
The House Transportation Committee heard House Bill 718 by Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), which would transition the current paper temporary tag process for motor vehicle sales to allowing dealers to have general issue metal plates assigned to a vehicle at the time of sale. Shay Luedeke, Bell County Tax Assessor-Collector, testified on the bill on behalf of TACA, noting that there are several processes that need to be addressed in the bill. Kevin Kieschnick, Nueces County Tax Assessor-Collector, and Dawn Vieth, Archer County Tax Assessor-Collector, also testified on the bill, noting specific concerns related to out-of-state vehicle sales processes as well as impacts to smaller counties. Committee action on the bill is pending, with Goldman working to postpone the effective date of the bill to 2025 to help address counties' concerns.
Two priority bail reform bills, Senate Joint Resolution 44 and Senate Bill 1318 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), have passed the Senate and made their way to the House. SJR 44 is a constitutional amendment authorizing the denial of bail under some circumstances to a person accused of a violent or sexual offense or of continuous trafficking of persons. It also requires a judge or magistrate to impose the least restrictive conditions of bail. SB 1318 is in response to the implementation of Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Huffman, passed during the second called special session of the 87th Legislature. SB 1318 adds additional provisions for a magistrate and prohibits certain magistrates from performing magistration on certain individuals. Additionally, it expands the list of offenses for which a defendant may not be released on a personal bond. County officials think the bill needs additional work and they will work diligently with legislators on this important issue.
HB 1487 by Rep. Stan Gerdes (R-Smithville) was heard in the House Committee on County Affairs this week. The committee substitute to HB 1487 creates a grant program that constables' offices and sheriffs' departments with a population of less than 275,000 can access. The grant program could be used to pay for a variety of areas including personnel cost, training and equipment. Burleson County Pct. 2 Constable Dennis Gaas, representing the Justices of the Peace and Constables Association of Texas, testified in support of the bill. HB 1487 was left pending in committee.
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.