Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Warrants-for-cell-phone-location data bill clears committee but time waning

With a half-dozen Texas Electronic Privacy Coalition volunteers gathered around, along with some staffers and a few interested members, Rep. Bryan Hughes' HB 2263 requiring the government to obtain warrants to access consumers' personal cell-phone location information passed out of committee yesterday at a sparsely attended desk meeting. Despite the fact that five committee members are coauthors, the bill was delayed uncomfortably long because of opposition from House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Abel Herrero, who was the only "no" vote.

Interestingly, Chairman Herrero opposed this bill in committee last year, then later voted on the floor to amend it to another bill. But this session he opposed it again, even though both sessions he gave it an early hearing and then, after inexplicable delays, a vote. I can't understand what was going on. When a chairman opposes a bill, typically he'd just never give it a hearing, much less a vote, the way Senate State Affairs Chair Joan Huffman has done with Craig Estes' SB 942 in the upper chamber. ¿Quien sabe?

Regardless, firm and jovial support from Calendars Committee Chairman Todd Hunter at yesterday's meeting - and that fact that 12 of 15 Calendars Committee members are coauthors - makes Grits sanguine that HB 2263 might receive a floor vote in the lower chamber before time runs out, even though we're late in session. Senate deadlines are more flexible than in the House - they suspend the rules for everything on the eastern side of the capitol - so there's still plenty of time to pass the bill if the Calendars Committee will expedite giving the thing a vote.

RELATED: Though not yet posted, I'm told Duane Bohac's HB 3165 requiring warrants when police use Stingray devices will be set for a hearing Thursday in the House Select Committee on Emerging Law Enforcement Issues. However, a) it's late and b) that committee hasn't passed out a bill all year. Correction: A reader corrected me by pointing out that Emerging Issues voted for four bills last Thursday, but they've yet to be formally reported out yet, still in that nether region after a vote but before the committee report arrives at Calendars. My error. The fact remains, time is short. UPDATE: The hearing for HB 3165 has been posted.