BILL ANALYSIS H.B. 3227 By: Junell 5-3-95 Committee Report (Amended) BACKGROUND There is a perceived local need for a statutory county court in Tom Green County. The criminal case load of the one county court at law in Tom Green County is increasing rapidly. These cases could be better administered if Tom Green County had two county courts at law. There are currently 185 statutory county courts in Texas. These courts were designed to alleviate the county judge of judicial responsibilities and to ease the docket load of district courts. These courts exist in 74, mostly urban, counties and are funded almost entirely by the counties authorized by the Legislature to establish such courts. Under House Bill 66 (72nd Legislature), counties with minimum jurisdictional, judicial qualifications and standards, and pay requirements may authorize an additional state filing fee entitling the county to $25,000 per court from state revenue. The table below compares the populations, ethnic composition, and current number of statutory county court judges for all the counties which have requested new statutory county courts. Because of multiple variances in jurisdiction, valid comparisons of docket filings, management and caseload growth between the statutory county courts of different counties cannot be made. County 1990 Pop. % Black % Hispanic Current no. of judges Cameron 260,120 0.3% 81.9% 2 Collin 264,036 4.1% 6.9% 3 Denton 273,525 5.0% 7.0% 3 Matagorda 36,928 13.8% 24.6% 0 Tom Green 102,337 4.2% 25.9% 1 Countywide, multimember at-large elections in urban areas exist now only in the context of judicial elections. Such election systems have been traditionally employed in order to dilute minority voting strength and to deny racial minorities the ability to elect candidates of their choice. Texas is currently defending a number of suits challenging countywide, multimember, at-large elections for judicial candidates in urban areas. Because of its rich history of racial discrimination and voter intimidation, Texas is subject to Section 5 of federal Voting Rights Act, which requires Texas to preclear changes in its elections system to ensure that racial minority voting strength is not diluted. The U.S. Justice Department has refused to preclear any new multimember, urban district or county courts in Texas since 1989. It is the opinion of this committee that this bill does not violate the federal Voting Rights Act. PURPOSE This bill creates County Court at Law No. 2 of Tom Green County. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the committee's opinion that this bill does not expressly grant any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency or institution. SECTION BY SECTION ANALYSIS SECTION 1. Section 25.2281, Government Code, is amended to create County Court at Law No. 2 of Tom Green County. SECTION 2. The court is created January 1, 1997, or on an earlier date determined by the commissioners court by an order entered in its minutes. SECTION 3. Emergency clause. EXPLANATION OF AMENDMENTS Committee Amendment No. 1 prohibits the judge of the court created by this bill from serving as an assigned (visiting) judge in Bexar, Dallas, Ector, Fort Bend, Harris, Jefferson, Lubbock, Midland, Tarrant or Travis County. SUMMARY OF COMMITTEE ACTION Pursuant to an announcement made on the House Floor on May 3, 1995, while the House was still in session, the Committee on Judicial Affairs met in a formal meeting on May 3, 1995. The Chair laid out H.B. 3227 and explained the bill. Rep. Alonzo offered committee amendment #1. There being no objection, the Chair laid out committee amendment #1 and recognized Rep. Alonzo to explain the amendment. Rep. Alonzo moved adoption of the amendment. There being no objection, the amendment was adopted. Rep. Thompson moved that H.B. 3227, as amended, be reported favorably back to the full House with the recommendation that it do pass, be printed and sent to the Local & Consent Calendars Committee. The motion prevailed by the following record vote: 6 ayes, 0 nays, 0 PNV and 3 absent.