Allen Place, Shea Place, and David Gonzalez comprise your 87th Texas legislative session TCDLA lobby team. The team is gearing up for what will certainly be an unprecedented session.
Allen, a former State Representative of nearly 10 years, has been with TCDLA for over 20 years. He was Chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and authored the Penal Code revision. He maintains his law practice in his hometown at Place Law Office, where he works with his wife and daughter. Generally, whether in session or not, you can find Allen meeting with legislators, staying up to date on current Texas politics and races, and talking to the media.
Shea practices with Allen at Place Law Office in Gatesville and Austin with a focus on parole law. Shea has been with TCDLA for 4 years and this will be her third session. Shea regularly attends legislator, stakeholder, and affiliate group meetings, follows current events, keeps track of member requests, and provides legislative updates to members. You can access these updates in the legislative list serve on the TCDLA website.
David has worked for TCDLA for over 10 years. He is a partner in Sumpter & Gonzalez in Austin and serves as an adjunct professor in the Trial Advocacy Program at the University of Texas School of Law. He is board certified in criminal law, was appointed by the Supreme Court to serve on the Board of Disciplinary Appeals, and has served as a special prosecutor for Travis, Kendall, and Panola Counties. TCDLA is fortunate to have David working for the association during the session.
TCDLA Legislative Committee members are: Chair William (Bill) Harris, Vice Chair Bobby Mims, Mark Daniel, Danny Easterling, Michael Heiskell, Susan Kelly, Timothy Rose, and Mark Snodgrass. Additionally, TCDLA President Grant Scheiner, TCDLA Executive Director Melissa Schank, TCDLA staff member Keri Steen, and TCDLA lobbyists Allen Place, David Gonzalez, and Shea Place all serve on the legislative committee.
The legislative committee meets for an in person (when allowed) meeting every quarter at the TCDLA board meetings. We have monthly calls to discuss new business. The committee reviews, discusses, and votes on each legislative request submitted for consideration. These suggestions form a list of priorities for the next legislative session. The committee also follows Texas politics and current events to better understand the political landscape and works to hash out the finer details of legislation like bill language and sponsors.
Typically, during pre-covid sessions, Allen, David, and I spend most of our time at the State Capitol. We work to draft legislation, defend against bills we do not support, testify in support of or opposition to bills of interest, maintain continual interaction with legislative members, committee chairmen, and their staff, and often work to make last minute changes in order to garner the most support for a bill. We attend any and all hearings relevant to our bills. These hearings are known to have delays and last well into the night.
Legislators are able to start filing bills in November. There are approximately 6,000-7,000 bills filed each year. The lobby team reads each bill and finds those of interest to TCDLA. We then track those bills, usually about 800-1,000 bills that relate to criminal justice. We continue following our bills of interest through each chamber and on to the Governor’s desk.
Much like football teams after winning a championship, the TCDLA lobby team celebrates for a day, then gets right back to work. We enjoy an excellent sine die party, but the work for the next session, still over a year and a half out, is already falling into place. We immediately start to formulate our agenda for the next session, prepare our full legislative report paper, and teach legislative update CLEs around the state to inform members about the new laws. Throughout the interim we also attend affiliate group, state agency, and stakeholder meetings, as well as individual meetings with legislators.
In the 87th legislative session, we face a lot of uncertainties. Not only are we in the middle of a pandemic and unsure how much access we will have to the Capitol building, we also do not know who the Speaker of the House will be. Texas will once again have a new Speaker of the House, which indicates yet another speaker’s race in 2020 just as we had in 2018. The primary difference in this year’s race is the talk of the Texas House turning Democratic. Without question, this speaker’s race has been quieter since many Representatives are hedging their bets, waiting on the results of the November election. Further, the pandemic and the social unrest of the last few months have spawned numerous bill ideas from both the right and the left, with some comments from those in the middle as well.
We have our positive agenda prepared and are ready to defend against bills that negatively affect criminal justice in Texas. Among other issues, TCDLA is looking at ways to improve grand juries and other criminal justice reform measures, such as mandatory body cameras and blind administration of photo arrays. It is anticipated the authors of the Sandra Bland Act will seek additional changes in 2021. In addition, Texas should have its own version of a bill in honor of George Floyd.
Although our legislative agenda is finalized for the 2021 session, you can email us at . Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns.