Texas Legislative Law Handbook

BY KEVIN STEWART

August 9, 2017

     On Monday, a point of order was sustained against SB 6, relating to municipal annexation. The point of order was based on Rule 8, Section 10(b) of the House Rules and Article III, Section 56(b) of the Texas Constitution. The rule prohibits "a bill whose application is limited to one or more political subdivisions by means of populations brackets or other artificial devices in lieu of identifying the political subdivision or subdivisions by name." However, the rule does not prohibit a bill with a bracket that "bears a reasonable relation to the purpose of the legislation."

     Texas courts have wrestled with this constitutional issue before, and they've developed a few complicated tests to determine if a bill violates the constitution. These tests are laid out in detail in Drafting §6.6 of the Handbook. While the tests themselves can be subjective, there are a couple of types of brackets that will almost always cause a bill to fail. First, do not use brackets that include...

May 25, 2017

     On Saturday, the House debated SB 669, relating to the system for protesting or appealing ad valorem tax determinations. This is the bill that most of SB 2 was tacked onto in an attempt to avoid a special session. In the midst of a robust debate between Representative Bonnen and Representative Stickland, there were some interesting procedural maneuverings. Much of the debate was focused on a provision of SB 2 that was left out of Bonnen’s amendment. The provision at issue would have required a rollback election if a district exceeded a 5% increase in tax rates.

     Representative Shaheen filed an amendment to add this provision to SB 669. The amendment was never heard, never debated, and is not mentioned in the House Journal. The Speaker explained that the amendment was not germane to the bill. But there was no point of order called, nor was there an explanation of the ruling in the journal, as required by Rule 14, Sec. 8. So, what happened?

     The answer is n...

May 20, 2017

     On May 15th, Kirk Watson tweeted, “With some bipartisan maneuvering, the #TXSenate gave new life to bills that ensure Texans can access public info.” The maneuvering he was referring to was getting SB 407 and SB 408 tacked on to HB 2328 on the Senate floor. On Thursday, HB 2328 was returned to the Senate because of those nongermane amendments.

     Rule 13, Section 5A of the House Rules states:

When a house bill or joint resolution, other than the general appropriations bill, with senate amendments is returned to the house, the speaker, with the permission of the primary author of the bill or resolution, may return the bill or resolution to the senate if the speaker determines that the senate amendments are not germane to the house version of the bill or resolution.

     HB 2328 was the first bill that the Speaker returned to the Senate this session, but the move is far from unprecedented. In the 84th, the Speaker returned HB 1630 because the Senate attached SB 20...

May 11, 2017

     On Tuesday, a point of order was sustained under Rule 8, Section 1: the bill caption is inaccurate. HB 731 by Rep. Bohac would have made certain threats by gang members a third degree felony. The caption referenced an "offense," rather than specifying that it related to a criminal offense. Therefore, the caption violated Rule 8, Section 1(c). This was almost exactly like the point of order that was sustained on HB 1156 by Rep. Sarah Davis that would criminalize the unlawful restraint of a dog (discussed in a post on May 3rd).

     Unlike the point of order on Sarah Davis' bill, though, HB 731 was on third reading. This is a key distinction. When a bill passes on 2nd reading, points of order based on the work of the committee are "scrubbed" from the bill and not eligible to be called on 3rd reading. Thus, if you don’t call such a point of order on second reading, it is waived (see Handbook §6.3). However, points of order based on constitutional provisions have special...

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© 2017 by Kevin Stewart