A bill that would streamline the operation and administration of the state’s judicial branch has come back in the special session as a proposal that will get a public hearing tomorrow morning. The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee will consider House Bill 79 by state Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, who serves as vice chairman of the committee. The bill includes the same provisions as the former Senate Bill 1717, which died in the regular session because the Texas House failed to adopt the bill’s conference committee report before the final legislative deadline. Lewis did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. Lewis and S.B. 1717 author state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, have asked Gov. Rick Perry to add the judicial overhaul bill to the Legislature’s agenda for the special session. That has not happened, but H.B. 79’s caption says the bill is related “to fiscal and other matters necessary for implementation of the judiciary budget.” The governor called the special session so the Legislature could finalize the state’s budget, and lawmakers are allowed to introduce bills to meet that goal. One significant provision in H.B. 79 would make it easier for district courts to transfer cases. Another provision would create uniform jurisdictional limits, functions, rules and definitions for county courts-at-law. The bill includes other minor changes to the judicial branch. Carl Reynolds, administrative director of the Office of Court Administration, says he hopes the Legislature passes the bill. “It charts a course for simplifying the overly complicated court system in Texas,” Reynolds says. “I’m referring to the prevalence of overlapping jurisdiction, and very specific statutory authority for different types of judges acting in different counties.” Tomorrow’s public hearing, which begins at 9:30 a.m., will be broadcast live on the Texas House website.
-- Angela Morris