79th Legislative Session Summary

              
86th Legislature (Regular, Jan. 8, 2019 to May 27, 2019)

Signed Bills related to Indigent Defense during the 79th Regular Legislative Session SB1704 The bill increases juror pay to $40 from $6 per day after the first day of service, while continuing the $6 minimum pay for the first day of service. The bill creates a new $4 court cost payable upon conviction for any offense, excluding pedestrian or parking related offenses. These funds will be used to reimburse counties $34 per day after the first day of service by each juror. The bill also provides that if the balance in the newly created jury service fund exceeds $10 million, the overage must be transferred to the Fair Defense Account. These funds are appropriated to the Task Force to reimburse counties for the costs of providing indigent defense services. The fiscal note for the bill estimates the funding for indigent defense to be approximately $2 million in FY06 and $13 million in FY07 and subsequent years. Please note that a similar court cost was considered in SB 368. The fiscal note for that bill estimated substantially less revenue and would result in no new funds for indigent defense until FY 2008. We will share any clarification we receive on the amount of revenue that may be expected for indigent defense services. HB1701 HB 1701 contains a set of recommendations from the Task Force on Indigent Defense (Task Force) following of a series of public meetings held last year concerning the administration of indigent defense in Texas. Significant amendments were also added related to qualifications for attorneys in death penalty cases. The key changes are as follows:

Streamlines the state judicial reporting requirements by requiring indigent defense plan submission every other year, rather than every year
Clearly defines what a "governmental entity" means in the context of establishing a public defender in Texas
Requires the regional selection committee to amend its standards for attorneys seeking appointment in death penalty cases to require that such attorneys not have been found to have rendered ineffective assistance of counsel during the trial or appeal of any capital case by a federal or state court
Requires the Court of Criminal Appeals to amend its rules for attorneys seeking appointment in writs of habeas corpus proceedings following a death sentence to require that such attorneys not have been found to have rendered ineffective assistance of counsel during the trial or appeal of any capital case by a federal or state court

Vetoed bills related to Indigent Defense

HB3152 relating to procedures applicable to waivers of the right to counsel.

Bills not passed during the 79th Regular Legislative Session

SB223 relating to the creation of a commission to investigate and prevent wrongful convictions.
SB232 relating to the State Bar of Texas fee to provide legal services to the indigent.
SB368 relating to the compensation of state judges and to the computation of retirement benefits for members of the elected class of the Employees Retirement System of Texas. [Note: Some versions of this bill directed additional funding to the Fair Defense Account for indigent defense services.]
SB1033 relating to the creation of a commission to investigate and prevent wrongful convictions.
SB1080 relating to pre-trial procedures in a criminal case.
SB1083 relating to procedures applicable to waivers of the right to counsel.
SB1218 relating to pre-trial procedures in a criminal case.
HB268 relating to the qualifications and appointment of counsel for indigent defendants in capital cases.
HB393 relating to the appointment of counsel for an indigent defendant after adversarial judicial proceedings are initiated in certain counties.
HB612 relating to certain information provided to an attorney appointed to represent an indigent defendant in a criminal case.
HB618 relating to the creation of a commission to investigate and prevent wrongful convictions.
HB1276 relating to the appointment of counsel for indigent defendants.
HB1954 relating to the financial consequences to a county of the appointment of counsel in certain cases.
HB2861 relating to requiring criminal district court approval before counsel in a noncapital indigent defense case incurs certain expenses.
HB3400 relating to the use of bail bond costs.

Link to Texas Legislature Online

General Appropriations

The Conference Committee Report of the General Appropriations Act, or SB 1, was passed by the legislature, certified by the comptroller, and signed by the Governor. The final bill includes one additional FTE (staff member) for the Task Force to hire a plan compliance monitor for a total of seven FTEs. It also provides that $100,000 per year in Task Force funds be directed to each of the four public law schools in the state to fund innocence projects at those schools (University of Houston, University of Texas, Texas Tech University and Texas Southern University). The funding for the Task Force on Indigent Defense is contained within the Office of Court Administration's budget in Article IV of the bill, which begins on page 20 of the following document: http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/Bill_79/6_Conference/79-6_Art04_0505.pdf

Interim Reports

The House Committee on County Affairs issued its interim report on January 6, 2005. Charge Two to the committee was to: Consider the increased costs associated with Court Administration and Security as it relates to the implementation of the Fair Defense Act and heightened security requirements. The report may be viewed here [pdf]

Other Reports

The House Research Organization issued a report related to unfunded mandates on July 22, 2004. The portion of the report related to indigent defense costs begins on page 19. The full [pdf] report is available here [pdf]