News from the Legislative Front: Texas, we have a quorum...or do we?

 August 23, 2021
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Last Thursday, 99 members of the House registered as being present on the floor, which is the number needed to end the 38-day quorum break. It appears, however, that some of the 99 members were not physically on the floor, but were marked present by House colleagues. If a quorum was indeed established, the House can return to conducting business (though it could be operating with a tenuous quorum). The House is scheduled to meet again today (Monday, August 23) at 4 p.m.

As you may recall, there are 17 items listed on Governor Abbott’s proclamation calling the second special session. As of August 20, more than 300 bills and resolutions have been filed. However, any action taken during a special session can only relate to bills/resolutions associated with items on the gubernatorial proclamation.

For those who are interested, the 17 items on the current special session agenda (along with hyperlinks to some of the bills associated with those items) are as follows:
  • Changing statewide election laws (SB 1 and HB 3);
  • Disallowing a student from competing in UIL athletic competitions designated for the sex opposite to the student’s sex at birth (SB 2, HB 25, and HB 96);
  • The teaching of “critical race theory” in Texas schools (SB 3);
  • Prohibiting the provision of abortion-inducing drugs by mail or delivery service, amending laws applicable to reporting abortions or abortion complications, and prohibiting the provision of abortion-inducing drugs without voluntary and informed consent (SB 4 and HB 6);
  • Protecting social media users from being censored based on the user’s viewpoints (SB 5 and HB 20);
  • Reforming the state’s bail system (SB 6, SJR 3, HB 12, and HJR 1);
  • Providing a “thirteenth check” or one-time supplemental payment of benefits under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (SB 7 and HB 8);
  • Providing appropriations from additional available general revenue for the following purposes:
    • Property-tax relief (SB 8, SB 12, HB 4, and HB 11);
    • Enhanced protection for the safety of children in Texas’ foster-care system by attracting and retaining private providers for the system (HB 118); and
    • To better safeguard the state from potential cybersecurity threats (HB 5 and SB 11) .
  • Requiring schools to provide appropriate education to middle and high school students about dating violence, domestic violence, and child abuse (SB 9);
  • Providing appropriations to the legislature and legislative agencies in Article X of the General Appropriations Act (SB 10 and HB 1);
  • Providing funding to support law enforcement agencies, counties, and other strategies as part of Texas’ comprehensive border security plan (HB 91);
  • Providing appropriations from unappropriated available revenues for COVID-19-related healthcare expenses;
  • Providing strategies for public-school education in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade during the COVID-19 pandemic (SB 15, HB 30, and HB 172);
  • Modifying filing periods and related election dates, including any runoffs, for primary elections held in Texas in 2022 (SB 13 and HB 15);
  • Reforming laws governing the storage and transport high-level radioactive materials in Texas (HB 7);
  • Shielding private employers and employees from political subdivision rules, regulations, ordinances, and other actions that require terms of employment in excess or conflicting with federal or state law relating to leave, hiring and scheduling practices, and benefits (SB 14 and HB 10); and
  • Modifying legislative quorum requirements (SJR 1 and HJR 9).
None of the items listed in the Governor Abbott’s proclamation significantly impact civil trial and appellate practitioners or the civil justice system, but that could change during this and/or future sessions.

I will keep everyone informed of developments, if any, as I become aware of them. In the interim, if you have any questions about these topics or any other matter that comes to mind, feel free to contact me. If I do not know the answer to your questions, I’ll do my best to find someone who does.

Jerry D. Bullard
Chair, State Bar of Texas Appellate Section
Co-Chair, Legislative Liaison Committee, State Bar of Texas Appellate Section

Jerry D. Bullard*
Adams, Lynch & Loftin, P.C.
3950 Highway 360
Grapevine, Texas 76051
O: 817.552.7742
F: 817.328.2942
* Board Certified - Civil Appellate Law
Texas Board of Legal Specialization

Litigation Section takes official position opposing HB1875 - Business Courts and Business Courts of Appeals

The Litigation Section was granted permission by the State Bar of Texas to officially oppose HB1875 which would create a statewide specialized Business Court and a Business Court of Appeals. Read our April 29, 2021 Letter and Resolution in Opposition to HB1875, which was sent to Dade Phelan, Speaker of the House, Dan Patrick, Lieutenant Governor, and each of the members of the Texas House of Representatives. This Resolution succinctly outlines the many reasons we find this bill objectionable.

Brief Description of HB175: This bill is the latest in a series of bills filed, but never passed, in past legislative sessions dating back to 2015 that would create a statewide specialized civil trial court and an appellate court to hear derivative actions on behalf of organizations (defined) and actions against, between or among organizations, governing authorities (undefined) and certain classes of individuals (defined) relating to a contract transaction for business or similar purposes. The Business Court would be composed of 7 trial judges appointed by the governor for 2-year terms. The Court of Business Appeals would hear appeals from the Business Court and be composed of 7 justices also appointed by the governor for 2-year terms. Appeals from the Business Court of Appeals would go to the Texas Supreme Court. The Office of Court Administration estimates that, if this court were created, the fiscal impact of HB1875 for the first two years of operation for this secondary court system would exceed $12 million.

On April 6, Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence conducted a public hearing on the bill. On April 21, by a 5-4 vote, the bill was voted out of committee without amendment.

If you have opinions or concerns about this or any other bill, I urge you to contact your legislators directly. Your opinions and special knowledge of these matters could have an important impact. You can find the legislators and their contact information here: Senators and House Members
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