New Texas Laws You Should Be Aware of

The 84th Texas Legislature has passed three laws that began to take effect across the state last January 1. If you live in Texas, then this blog post is a must-read for you:

House Bill 257

The act, authored by Rep. Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, prohibits "a justice or judge from owning any voting stock in a business entity that owns, manages or operates a private correctional or rehabilitation facility."

The act also decreases the amount of voting stock permitted from 10% ($15,000) of fair market value to none. The bill analysis presented to the Texas Legislature explains: "The parties contend that it is a conflict for a justice or judge to have any direct investment at all in these facilities and assert that the threshold value for what constitutes such a direct investment should be removed.”

House Bill 2299
Authored by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Spring, the act does not substantially change any portion of Texas criminal law, but it codifies Article 42.12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure from an article to a chapter of the law. This code tackles "community supervision, specifically judge and jury recommended community supervision and the circumstances that qualify a defendant for community supervision." Under community supervision—or under probation as it is more commonly called— the defendant may be incarcerated or fined, OR criminal proceedings may be deferred.

The bill analysis presented to the Texas Legislature explains that the author's intention when the bill was filed was “to organize and arrange, in a logical fashion, the laws relating to community supervision and to rewrite those laws without altering their meaning or legal effect.”

Senate Bill 1139

Senate Bill 1139 was co-authored by Sens. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. The act relates to "the operation and administration of courts in the judicial branch of state government, the composition of certain juvenile boards and the increase of certain filing fees". The bill analysis presented to the Texas Legislature discusses the authors' intention when filing the bill was to adjust the court system to match the shifting demographics in Texas.

Huffman and Zaffrini explains, “As the state’s population grows in some areas while declining in others, the judicial needs of the various regions change... These shifting demographics can significantly impact the caseload of the existing courts.”

Court System Changes Effective January 1:

  • Kendall County was added to the newly-created 541st Judicial District with a new criminal district attorney. 
  • The offices of the County Attorney and the County Court at Law in Kendall County have been abolished.
  • The 440th Judicial District has been created January 1 and will include Coryell County.
  • Guadalupe County's county attorney is now required to perform the duties of a district attorney. Therefore, the office of the district attorney for the 25th Judicial District has been abolished.
While most of the changes stipulated by the bill have taken effect last Sept. 1, 2015, some of the portions of the law have been scheduled to take effect up through Jan. 1, 2019.

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