The Legislative Horizon

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

UPDATE  |  By Trish McAllister, TAJC Executive Director

In less than two weeks, Texas state senators and representatives will convene the 85th Legislative session. Since the last session, the Commission has maintained an ongoing dialogue with legislative members about the importance of access to justice in Texas and how legal aid directly benefits members in their districts.

For the 2017 session, the Commission plans to support both funding and non-funding legislation that serves to increase access to the courts for low-income Texans.

Funding-related Efforts:

•    Support the Texas Supreme Court’s Legislative Appropriations Request for Basic Civil Legal Services, as well as continuing appropriations for the new veterans’ legal aid and legal aid for survivors of sexual assault.

Non-Funding-related Efforts:

•    Support a bill to clarify when the anti-lapse statute applies in a Transfer on Death Deed.

•    Propose legislation for a Vehicle Transfer on Death to allow vehicle owners to transfer their vehicle to a beneficiary upon their death without going through probate. If passed, the three assets a low-income individual is likely to own – a car, a home, and money in a bank account – will be able to pass to a beneficiary without the expense of probate.

•    Propose amendments to Sections 323.021 and 323.023 of the Local Government Code to clarify that counties can use law library fees to offset the expenses associated with a county law library self-help center and that counties can partner together to establish a law library and self-help center.

•    Support legislation to require non-federally related lenders to provide annual statements to borrowers with basic information about the status of their loan, including  how much is owed, how much has been paid, and the breakdown of the principal and interest.

•    Support an amendment to Chapter 81.053(a) of the State Bar Act that allows the Texas Supreme Court to promulgate rules allowing inactive members to practice law for the sole purpose of providing pro bono legal services.

We look forward to an exhilarating 85th Legislative session.  If you have questions about any of these efforts, please contact Trish McAllister, or 512-427-1855.

The executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, Trish McAllister has over 20 years of experience in the access to justice field. She served as the executive director of Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, a nonprofit pro bono legal service provider. She also worked at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, where she was a regional team leader for the family law division handling domestic violence cases and then acting branch manager.