Understanding How a Bill Becomes Law & Ways to Advocate
Our team is committed to educating the you on the processes that occur throughout the legislative session including how a bill is introduced, how a bill proceeds through the legislature, what testifying and/or supporting a bill entails, and more. Take a look at the information outlined below, including public safety related bills that have been filed for this session and what they could mean for public safety in Houston.
Legislative Briefing Event - January 18, 2023
Our team provided basic information to the community on processes that occur throughout the legislative session. Also, featuring guest speaker Alison Steele, the mother of 19-year-old Cayley Mandadi who was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered in 2017. Steele fought hard to change the AMBER Alert law so that adults like her daughter could be protected. Steele believes an AMBER Alert could have saved her daughter’s life. She will share her advocacy story as the driving force behind the CLEAR Alert legislation.
How a Bill Becomes a Law
In Texas, a bill becomes a law by passing through a few main stages in the Texas legislature:
- Introduction of the bill
- Committee Action (where the bill is assigned to a relevant subcommittee to review in depth)
- Floor Action (when a bill is discussed by the entire House OR Senate after in-depth review from a
- Enrollment (when both the House and Senate has passed the bill in identical form and it moves to the
Governor for final signing/approval).
- The bill becomes a law.
Filed Public Safety Bills
This proposed constitutional amendment would authorize the denial of bail under some circumstances to a person accused of a violent or sexual offense or of continuous trafficking of persons. This would would require a judge or magistrate to impose the least restrictive conditions of bail that may be necessary to ensure the person’s appearance in court as required and consider the safety of the community, law enforcement, and the victim of the alleged offense.
*Passed out of the Senate and is now in the House for consideration
SB 402 | HB 1564
This bill would prioritize cases with defendants charged with capital murder or murder to expedite trial. This would aid in reducing case backlog in major cities.
*Passed out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee (SB402)
*Now in the House for consideration (HB 1564)
This bill will allow evidence of a crime to be disclosed to the family of victims ahead of trial.
Increases minimum prison sentences for defendants charged in certain cases that exhibit or use a firearm.
Redefines how an inmate may accrue good conduct time and conditions that inmates may be eligible for parole. TDJC may give good conduct time, at their discretion, to inmates who comply with all departmental rules or are diligently participating in an agricultural, industrial, educational, treatment, or other work program. Repeat and/or habitual felony offenders would be added to the list of convictions that require a unanimous vote of the parole board, to be granted parole. In these circumstances, board members must receive a report on the probability of the inmate recommitting an offense if released prior to the official vote. When considering whether an inmate is eligible for parole, accrued good time must factored into the decision. An inmate would need to serve the mandatory minimum required sentence in addition to the presence of accrued good time in parole considerations. These changes would apply to inmates confined in a facility operated by or under contract with the TDCJ.
This bill would enhance existing law by defining felony level assault during mass shootings. If an offender is found guilty of a felony level assault that sentence must run consecutively (one after another without interruption) not concurrently (simultaneously).
This bill would require the adoption of six more courts to Harris County Districts Court. From Hurricane Harvey to the COVID-19 pandemic in the past six years Harris Country has seen numerous disasters causing the criminal court system to shut down completely OR significantly slow normal operations. This contributed to a significant case backlog that is estimated to take 15+ years to resolve. Adding additional courts would aid in addressing the current case backlog in Harris County.
HB 227 | SB 1151
This bill seeks to regulate the bail bond industry and the ability of bond agencies to act as sureties on bail bonds. When an individual is charged with a crime, the court sets a bail, which is the amount of money the defendant must pay to be released from jail as they await trial. If the defendant is unable to pay the full amount of the bail themselves, they may contract with a bond agency to act as a “surety” for the bail, essentially assuming full responsibility for the defendant and assuring that they will appear at trial. Bond agencies charge defendants different amounts to cover their bail, with some allowing defendants to pay very small amounts (well below the original bail amount) before they are released from jail. This bill will legally establish that a bond company can only cover a defendant’s bail if that defendant has paid the bond company at least 10% of the original court-ordered bail amount.
*Passed out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee (SB1151)
*Scheduled for public hearing on 3/28/2023 (HB 227)
This bill would increase the penalty for individuals engaging in the theft of a catalytic converter if the individual has previously been involved in the theft of a catalytic converter or if they engage in the business of buying and selling of items that are knowingly stolen at the time of transaction.
Would make it a crime to remove, destroy, or tamper with an ankle monitor.
*Passed out of the Senate and is now in the House for consideration
How to Look up a Bill
Look up your State Representatives
Testifying at the Texas Legislature
There are three ways to register your support or opposition for either a House or Senate bill once it is scheduled for a public hearing.
- You may submit written testimony either in person or online. For this, you will simply fill out some personal information (name, organization affiliation, county, etc.), then you will designate if you are for or against the bill, and finally you will be provided a text box to write out why you are for or against the bill.
- You may verbally testify in person. To be recognized as an in-person testimony, you must register to do so onsite. When you arrive at the Capital, you must proceed to either the Senate or House registration devices where you will fill out an electronic form with your name, if you are for or against the bill, and select that you would like to speak publicly. When your name is called during the hearing, you will proceed to the microphone where you will have 3 uninterrupted minutes to state your opinion. If a legislator has further questions for you, they may extend your time at the microphone and open the floor for other legislators to question you.
- Please find an example in video below of Crime Stoppers partner and surviving family member of Homicide, Teresa Seck testifying in favor of SB 6 in the 2021 Texas Legislative Session.
- You may register for or against a bill without electing to publicly testify. This is done on site, at the Capital on the day of the public hearing for the bill of interest.
WATCH VIDEO OF THERESA SECK’S 2021 TESTIMONY
Theresa Seck testified in support of companion bills HB 2 and SB 6. Her brother, Patrick Aikens, was walking outside his galleria area apartment when he was randomly targeted, assaulted, and shot to death allegedly by 28-year-old Deerian Carroway. Carroway was out on SEVEN felony bonds between two counties (Harris and Fort Bend) including several counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and was wearing an ankle monitor at the time of Aikens death.