The 86th Texas Legislature

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Wednesday, January 30th, 2019
The 86th Texas Legislature

The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association team of lobbyists is ready to dive into the 86th Texas legislative session. This year, the team is composed of Allen Place, Shea Place, and David Gonzalez. We wanted to share a little about who we are and what we do both in and out of session.

Allen Place has worked for TCDLA for 20 years. Allen is a former State Representative of nearly 10 years. He was Chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and authored the Penal Code revision during his time in the legislature. Allen maintains a general trial practice at his firm, Place Law Office, in his hometown of Gatesville, now primarily focusing on parole law.

Shea Place, a 2015 Baylor Law School graduate, practices with the Place Law Office in Austin. Shea joined the TCDLA team for the 2017 session and continued to assist with legislative efforts throughout the interim. You can catch regular legislative updates from her on the TCDLA listserve. In addition to her law practice and work with TCDLA, Shea assists other legislative clients in lobbying and developing grassroots programs.

David Gonzalez, a partner in Sumpter & Gonzalez in Austin, has worked for TCDLA for 10 years. He is board certified in criminal law and serves as an adjunct professor in the Trial Advocacy Program at the University of Texas School of Law. David was appointed by the Supreme Court to serve on the Board of Disciplinary Appeals and has served as a special prosecutor for Travis, Kendall, and Panola counties, as well as the City of Cibolo.

During the legislative session, the lobby team is at their busiest. Legislators were able to start filing bills as early as November 12, 2018. There are approximately 6,000–7,000 bills filed each year. The lobby team reads through every bill filed and narrows those down to those of interest to TCDLA. We usually end up tracking about 800–1000 bills relating to criminal justice each session. Lobby team members attend numerous committee hearings for bills we support and those we oppose. We maintain continual interaction with legislative members, committee chairmen, and their staff. We continue following tracked bills through each chamber and ultimately to the governor’s desk.

When the legislature is not in session, the lobby team will travel to different parts of the state giving legislative updates at continuing legal education classes. We attend interim legislative committee hearings and state agency hearings. We also attend task-force group meetings and individual meetings with fellow stakeholders, as well as legislators.

Speaker Joe Straus did not seek re-election to the Texas House, which opened up a speakers race. At one point, seven different representatives filed for the speaker’s job. The last candidate to enter the race, Representative Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, announced in November 2018 that he had the necessary votes to be elected speaker on January 8th, 2019. Representative Bonnen has been in the legislature for more than 20 years and has been a member when his Republican party was in the minority as well as in the majority. Representative Bonnen understands and respects the traditions of the House. In his first press conference, the presumptive speaker announced that school finance was priority one, two, and three. The Senate remains under the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Patrick. Both the Senate and House remain in Republican control, as does the governor’s office with the re-election of Governor Greg Abbott.

TCDLA is working on a positive agenda, as well as preparing to defend against bills that negatively affect criminal justice in Texas. During the interim, there were numerous interim studies relating to state jail and bail reform. It is anticipated numerous bills will be filed that will alter state jail procedurally and substantially. Bail reform was discussed in 2017 and continues to be a topic of discussion due to jail lawsuits and jail overcrowding. Among other issues, TCDLA is looking at ways to improve non-disclosures, appointment of visiting judges, and the application of diligent participation credit on state jail sentences.

Now that you know a little about who we are and what we do, please know that you can contact us at any time. We are here to answer questions and assist in any way we can. You can contact us through the TCDLA Legislative email account at Legislative@tcdla.com. You can also fill out the grassroots form sent to your email account. This will help us in the event we need someone to testify on behalf of TCDLA or talk to his or her local legislator. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

See you after Sine Die,
Shea Place