We’ve shared with you a number of reforms the Texas Legislature is working on this legislative session to improve our legal system. Now with less than a month to go in the 86th Legislature, we’ve entered the point in session where bills begin moving, and moving quickly.
Here’s an update on the status of where some of these important reforms stand in the process:
Transparency in Local Government Contracting—House Bill 2826
This bill is one of TLR’s primary legislative priorities, and was passed by the Texas House of Representatives on May 2 with 103 votes. The bill implements important changes to ensure contingency fee legal contracts are transparent and open, and that the local government gets to keep more of any legal settlement it may be awarded. House bill author Rep. Greg Bonnen devoted significant time to working with stakeholders to develop a bill that allows local governments to continue hiring contingency fee attorneys, while giving taxpayers the transparency they expect any time a private attorney is hired to do the government’s work. It is now pending before the Senate, where Sen. Joan Huffman is the bill sponsor, and we are hopeful the Senate will concur on the House bill and send it to Gov. Abbott for his signature.
Access to Courts—Senate Bill 2342
Another of TLR’s major priorities for this session is making litigation less expensive and time consuming so all Texans can pursue their legitimate claims in court. This bill expands the jurisdiction of justice of the peace courts, which quickly and efficiently handle smaller cases and do not require an attorney. It also expands the use of successful expedited procedures that have helped make the legal process more streamlined and efficient. The bill was passed out of the Senate on April 17 with strong bipartisan support and is pending before the House. Its authors, Sen. Brandon Creighton and Rep. Jeff Leach, are strong proponents of common-sense lawsuit reforms and have received strong support in both chambers for this legislation.
Attorney Advertising—Senate Bill 1189
Sen. Dawn Buckingham, who is a practicing physician, led the charge for this bill in the Senate to ensure legal services TV ads do not unnecessarily scare Texans out of taking critical medications. Dr. Buckingham is particularly concerned about the effects these ads have on older Texans, whom these ads typically target. The bill requires a few common-sense disclaimers, including, ‘Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting a physician.’ It passed out of the Senate on April 11, and is now pending in the House where Rep. Giovanni Capriglione is the bill sponsor. Again, we expect the House to vote favorably on this measure to help protect the safety of Texas patients.
Anti-SLAPP Statute—House Bill 2730
This issue has received a lot of media attention in the past few months. As we’ve discussed, when the Legislature passed the Texas Citizens’ Participation Act in 2011, it wanted to ensure a powerful entity couldn’t use a frivolous lawsuit to bully Texans out of exercising their rights of free speech and association. However, the law has been used in ways the Legislature never intended—for example, to shield actions like blackmail and theft of trade secrets. House Bill 2730 by Rep. Jeff Leach passed out of the House on April 30 with overwhelming bipartisan support and is the product of feedback from key stakeholders—including the media organizations, attorneys and judges who work with this law every day. It helps ensure that Texans can exercise their constitutional rights of speech and association, while making adjustments to prevent the statute’s overly-broad application. It is now pending before the Senate, which we believe will concur with the House bill and send it to Gov. Abbott for his signature.