Saturday, February 09, 2013

Criminal-justice happenings next week at the Lege

Looking ahead to next week at the Texas Legislature, few committees are meeting yet and discussions about the budget remain the dominant policy matters in play. The Senate Finance Committee has completed its hearings related to criminal-justice and judiciary budgets and working groups will be doing the markups (edits and changes to the draft, base budget) in the coming week. There are no criminal-justice related appointments up in the Nominations Committee this week.

On the House side, an Appropriations subcommittee led by state Rep. Sylvester Turner will hear testimony from judiciary and criminal-justice related agencies next week in a series of hearings.

The House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee will meet next Thursday to hear invited testimony from DPS and several emergency-preparedness related agencies. I hope they ask about crime lab backlogs as well as the the more hot button border security and drivers license issues that dominated the Senate Finance Committee's discussions with DPS.

Although the bill filing deadline isn't officially until the 60th day of the Legislature on March 8, next Friday, Feb. 15, will be the last day legislators can send bills to the Legislative Council, the entity that formally drafts legislation, and ensure that a Lege Council draft will be finished by bill filing deadline. Legislators so far have been filing fewer bills than in past sessions, but there's also usually a last-minute rush. Bills can still be filed if they don't get to Lege Council by Feb. 15, but it's considered an important, internal deadline by legislators and their staff. So if you have a bill you need filed that hasn't gone through the Lege Council process, next week is time for your big push.

Otherwise, things remain slow on the criminal-justice front but will surely ramp up quickly in a couple of weeks once committees start hearing bills

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