Senate OKs bill capping legal fees at $250,000 in certain cases


Highlights

Winning side would be eligible for limited legal fees if Texas loses a redistricting or school finance case.

Democrats say bill is an attempt to discourage lawsuits.

Voting along party lines, the Texas Senate gave initial approval Thursday to a bill that would cap legal fees at $250,000 if the state loses lawsuits challenging redistricting plans and the way public schools are financed.

Democrats opposed Senate Bill 949, saying it was a blatant attempt to discourage lawsuits, particularly from frequently low-income Texans who allege violations of the Voting Rights Act — cases that typically take years to litigate and can cost millions of dollars in legal work, expert witnesses and other expenses.

TEXAS POLITICS DELIVERED EVERY DAY: Sign up for our Texas Politics email

“Your bill will make it harder for citizens of this state who are aggrieved by actions that violate the Constitution, to bring these cases,” Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, told the bill’s author, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, noted that SB 949 would not cap awards if the state attorney general’s office were to win a case. “You’re really tipping the balance of justice,” she said.

Kolkhorst disagreed, saying her legislation would not cap what can be spent on a case, only what a court could require Texas to pay in legal fees if it loses a redistricting or school finance case.

“This is taxpayer dollars,” Kolkhorst said. “Thirty-eight states don’t award attorney fees in any of these cases.”

After Thursday’s 20-11 vote, a final vote on SB 949 will take place next week, sending the bill to the House.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Southbound I-35 lanes reopening in North Austin after wreck; delays extend to Round Rock
Southbound I-35 lanes reopening in North Austin after wreck; delays extend to Round Rock

7:30 a.m. update: The southbound lanes of Interstate 35 near Wells Branch Parkway in North Austin has been reopened for traffic after a wreck caused delays that have extended north to FM 1431 past Round Rock in Williamson County. 7:05 a.m. update: The southbound lanes of Interstate 35 just north of Wells Branch Parkway in North Austin is shut down...
FORECAST: 20% chance of rain Friday; weekend temps to reach low 70s
FORECAST: 20% chance of rain Friday; weekend temps to reach low 70s

Friday forecast for Austin: Austin has a 20 percent chance of seeing showers, according to the National Weather Service. The weather outlook calls for temperatures to reach near 49 degrees under mostly cloudy skies, and light south-southeast winds becoming south winds of 5 to 10 mph in the morning. At night, Austin’s expected to have the same...
New England, Jacksonville firms make whiskey wager for AFC title game
New England, Jacksonville firms make whiskey wager for AFC title game

The "whiskey wagers" are flying back and forth between distilleries in New England and Northeast Florida ahead of Sunday's AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars. It began with Sons of Liberty Beer & Spirits Co. of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, challenging the St. Augustine Distillery Company ...
Iowa police charge 2 juveniles with destroying half-million bees
Iowa police charge 2 juveniles with destroying half-million bees

Iowa police arrested two juveniles Wednesday, charging them with alleged vandalism that destroyed more than a half-million bees at a Sioux City honey business last month, The Sioux City Journal reported. The minors, 12 and 13, were not identified by police. They were charged on three felony counts -- criminal mischief in the first degree...
Driver runs onto freeway to avoid car crashing into tow truck
Driver runs onto freeway to avoid car crashing into tow truck

A Michigan tow truck driver working to load a crashed vehicle was nearly hit by another car that lost control in slick conditions. On Wednesday morning at 10:30, the tow truck driver was working to load a vehicle that had been involved in a crash onto a truck.  A Michigan State Police officer was behind the tow truck, and on cruiser cam,...
More Stories