My last post buried the lede. My apologies. Here’s another try:
The Texas Legislature just passed an amendment to the statute governing the jurisdiction of the Texas Supreme Court to interpret Texas statutes. The bill passed overwhelmingly (147-0 in the House; 29-1 in the Senate (( The lone nay vote was cast by Senator Wentworth. )) ) and has been sent to the Governor.
The bill, a reaction to the Court’s controversial Entergy decision, aims to enforce a brand new provision of the Code Construction Act dealing with recodified statutes. Under the new law, Texas courts can no longer take recodified statutes at face value. If a change is made or a provision is added during the recodification process (by which old statutes are rearranged into modern statute books), Texas courts will not be able to give it effect unless there is also some other “direct express evidence of legislative intent.” (( The bill does not clarify what that means. Typically, people look for “legislative intent” in committee reports prepared by staffers, in stray questions asked at committee hearings by individual members, or in floor debates involving just a couple of members. The only statement of “legislative intent” voted on by the Legislature as a whole is the statute itself. )) The bill’s text explains more. Or you can read my first post discussing this bill.
Unless the bill is vetoed by Governor Perry, this change will go into effect immediately. (( The bill contains an emergency clause and received the requisite 2/3 vote in each house of the Legislature needed to become effective before September 1, 2009. I’m assuming that the date of effectiveness will be the date of the Governor’s signature. If someone knows differently, please post a comment or send me an email. )) So, the new jurisdictional limit on the Supreme Court’s authority to interpret statutes could apply to petitions being drafted now. And the substantive changes this bill makes to the Code Construction Act may also be felt in pending cases throughout the court system.