The Back MicThe Back Mic: Sen. Huffman Identifies Bail Reform Additions, ‘Enemy Attack’ Exception to Quorum Requirements, Latest Campaign Ads

This week — bail reform items for the 2023 session are floated, the legislative quorum requirement may be suspended under “enemy attack,” and the latest campaign ads are listed.
September 16, 2022

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Texas Senator Eyes Expansion of Bail Reform Law Passed Last Year

State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) stated this week that Senate Bill (SB) 6 must be supplemented next session to further restrict how judges may set bail for violent offenders.

Harris County Constable Omar Ursin was shot and killed on August 28. This week, it was discovered his killers were out of jail on $75,000 bond for separate murder charges.

Gov. Greg Abbott made a campaign stop in Houston this week alongside local law enforcement to decry the decisions made by Harris County judges.

Huffman, who authored SB 6 in the second special session, said in a statement, “Even after a complete overhaul of the bail-setting process, and increased transparency requirements, certain judges are still failing to consider the public’s safety when setting bail for habitual violent offenders.”

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Next session, Huffman aims to put forward a constitutional amendment that would “authorize the denial of bail under some circumstances to a person accused of a violent or sexual offense.” A similar joint resolution — the legislative mechanism for what may become a statewide ballot proposition and then a constitutional amendment — failed to reach the necessary threshold in the state House.

Huffman also said that convictions of unlawful possession of a firearm and a family protective order violation should be among the list of offenses that preclude the application of personal bond.

“If evidence is discovered that a judge or magistrate did not abide by all applicable laws, I will personally file a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct,” she added.

Quorum Provision May be Suspended Under “Enemy Attack”

Many oddities inhabit the Texas Constitution and state code, and occasionally current events bring them roaring back into relevance.

After last year’s legislative quorum break and the border crisis, which some argue constitutes an invasion or a coordinated attack by a foreign enemy, an obscure section of the state constitution now has some contemporary relevance.

Article III Sec. 62 lays out the procedure for coping with an “enemy attack” to ensure the government may continue to operate.

It states, “When such a period of emergency or the immediate threat of enemy attack exists, the Legislature may suspend procedural rules imposed by this Constitution that relate to:

  • The order of business of the Legislature;
  • The percentage of each house of the Legislature necessary to constitute a quorum;
  • The requirement that a bill must be read on three days in each house before it has the force of law;
  • The requirement that a bill must be referred to and reported from committee before its consideration; and
  • The date on which laws passed by the Legislature take effect.”

Such a proclamation may not exceed two years in length and must specify a time frame. The quorum busts by Democrats last year dragged legislative activity to a halt on the final day of the regular session and then did the same for an entire special session in July before they eventually returned.

During the GOP primary for governor, Gov. Greg Abbott’s opponents frequently called for the incumbent to declare an invasion by invoking sections of the state and federal constitutions to combat the border crisis. In July, Abbott invoked those sections in an executive order directing state police to return illegal border crossers to points of entry but did not go so far as to order law enforcement to deport them.

In all likelihood, this provision will not come into play, but the eccentricities of state law occasionally rear their head in the events of today.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.