TCADP is actively involved with the Texas Legislature, which meets every other year in odd-numbered years for 140 days, starting on the second Tuesday in January and concluding at the end of May. The dedicated members of the TCADP Lobby Corps work with TCADP staff and the board of directors to advance our legislative agenda to abolish the death penalty.
87th Texas Legislature
Bills to abolish the death penalty were filed in the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate for consideration in the 87th Texas Legislature, but neither bill received a hearing. State Representative Joe Moody (House District 78-El Paso) filed HB 215; the bill was jointly authored by Rep. Michelle Beckley (House District 65-Carrollton) and Rep. Donna Howard (House District 48-Austin). State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (Senate District 27-Brownsville) filed SB 188, with Senator Sarah Eckhardt (Senate District 14- Austin) as a co-author.
Bills aimed at addressing serious flaws in the Texas death penalty system were listed among the House’s bipartisan criminal justice reform priorities but failed to advance in the Senate this year.
86th Texas Legislature
The 86th Texas Legislature took place January 8 to May 27, 2019. Bills to repeal the death penalty were filed in both chambers:
- House Bill 246, authored by State Representative Jessica Farrar (HD 148-Houston); State Representative Donna Howard (HD 48-Austin); and State Representative Joe Moody (HD 78-El Paso)
- Senate Bill 294 by State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (SD 27-Brownsville)
For the first time in 10 years, the repeal bill filed by Representative Farrar did not receive a committee hearing in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, chaired by State Representative Nicole Collier (HD 95-Fort Worth). SB 294 did not receive a hearing in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, chaired by State Senator John Whitmire (SD 15-Houston).
The Texas House of Representatives did act on several death penalty-related bills, however, passing the following legislation with significant bipartisan support:
- House Bill 1030 would have revised and clarified the jury instructions given during the sentencing phase of a capital murder trial. The bill was sponsored by Representative Joe Moody and passed the House on April 10 by a vote of 133 Yeas to 10 Nays. It did not receive a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
- House Bill 1139 would have established a process for determining whether a defendant in a capital case is a person with an intellectual disability and prohibited the death penalty for persons found to be intellectually disabled. The bill was sponsored by State Representative Senfronia Thompson (House District 141 – Houston) and passed the House on April 30 by a vote of 102 Yeas to 37 Nays. A significantly altered version of the bill passed the Senate on May 22. Both chambers appointed members to a conference committee to resolve their differences with the bill, but they were unable to reach agreement before the session ended.
- House Bill 1936 would exempt a defendant with a severe mental illness at the time of the crime from the death penalty; the determination would be made by the jury. The bill was sponsored by State Representative Toni Rose (House District 110 – Dallas) and passed the House on May 9 by a vote of 77 Yeas to 66 Nays. The Senate did not act on the bill.
All three bills were authored and co-authored by Democrats and Republicans in the Texas House.
TCADP also provides opportunities for constituent engagement. Check out this great advice from former Texas House Parliamentarian Chris Griesel on how to communicate with state legislators.
For highlights of our work in past legislative sessions, please visit our Legislative Advocacy Archive page.