83(R) - 2013
Relating to the duties of and the applicaton of the professional prosecutors law to the county attorneys in Gonzales and Lavaca Counties and to the duties of the district attorney for the 25th Judicial District.
The bill would amend the Government Code relating to the duties and salary of the county attorney of Gonzales County and the counties composing the 25th Judicial District. The Gonzales County Attorney would become subject to the Professional Prosecutors Act and prohibited from the private practice of law. The bill would take effect September 1, 2013.
In this new capacity, the Gonzales County Attorney would be entitled to a salary of $125,000 from the state plus benefits ($22,631) from General Revenue and the Judicial Fund No. 573. However, the Gonzales County Attorney would also forgo the annual $20,833 state salary supplement the county attorney receives, which is also paid from these two funding sources. Therefore, the net cost to the state due to the salary and benefits increase would be $126,798. Finally, district and county attorneys in the Professional Prosecutors Act are entitled to $27,500 per year from the state to defray office expenses, which are paid from General Revenue.
Summary: In the past, Texas has implemented steps to make state prosecutors more professional. Provisions such as tying a state prosecutor's salary to the district judge's salary and prohibiting serving prosecutors from private law practice were contained in the Professional Prosecutor Act (Government Code Chapter 46). HB 696 adds Gonzales County Attorney to Chapter 46 of the Government Code. Additionally, this bill grants the powers conferred by general law to the county attorney and allows the county attorney to accept grants for the operation of the office. These grants are required to be reported to the commissioner's court. Finally, this bill removes Gonzales County from the 25th Judicial District to allow the Gonzales County Attorney to prosecute felonies.
Analysis: By adding a county attorney to Chapter 46 of the Government Code, the potential conflict of interest that arises from a county attorney practicing private law is eliminated. Additionally, this allows the county attorney to fully concentrate on the responsibilities of a county attorney. For these reasons, TPPA recommends voting yes on HB 696.