© 2017 by Kevin Stewart

New Rule 8, Section 1(c) precedent: The bill caption is inaccurate

May 3, 2017

     On Monday, the chair sustained a point of order on HB 1156, which related to the unlawful restraint of a dog. The point of order was based on Rule 8, Section 1(c) (see Points of Order § 2.2 of the Handbook). This subsection is one of three that require additional statements in the caption of bills with certain affects. Subsection (b) deals with taxes and fees, subsection (c) relates to criminal penalties, and subsection (d) applies to certain licensure bills.

     Subsection (c) requires bills "that would create a criminal offense, increasing the punishment for an existing offense or category of offenses, or change the eligibility of a person for community supervision, parole, or mandatory supervision" to "include a statement at the end of its title or caption indicating the general effect of the bill on the offense, punishment, or eligibility." The rule also provides examples of satisfactory statements: "creating a criminal offense," "increasing a criminal penalty," and "changing the eligibility for community supervision (or parole or mandatory supervision)."

     There was no doubt that the bill created a criminal penalty, in this case a Class C misdemeanor. The issue was with the language of the caption. The bill, which was apparently drafted in conjunction with the Texas Legislative Council, had a caption stating "relating to the unlawful restraint of a dog; creating an offense." The chair held that "creating an offense" is too broad. Rule 8, Section 1(c) applies only to criminal offenses—not civil offenses—and the caption should reflect that the bill would create a criminal offense. The caption was therefore defective.

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