Family violence measures receive support in Legislature


AUSTIN — Bills on the agenda of the Texas Council on Family Violence are receiving widespread support during the 85th Texas legislative session.

One such bill, Senate Bill 712, passed the Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday and has been sent to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk to be signed into law.

“Right now, in a continuous violence situation, the judge cannot extend a protective order beyond two years,” said Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen and author of SB 712. “So what this bill does is, it allows the judge, when there is a finding of lethal violence, to continue to the protective order for over a period of two years. That way the person who is being abused doesn’t have to come back to the court, and that protective order will be good and can be used by law enforcement to arrest that person in the event that person violates the protective order.”

SB 712 is one of several separate pieces of legislation that address four different issues brought to legislators’ attention by the Texas Council on Family Violence said Aaron Setliff, the director of policy for the organization.

“The Texas Council on Family Violence is a statewide coalition of all statewide domestic violence programs,” Setliff said. “In preparation for the legislative session, we convene a public policy committee of about 30 people from all around the state and from various professions. During the interim year, we start off with about 50 ideas, and through several in-person meetings and conference calls, we take the ideas and whittle them down. We will then identify people that are strategic and can help the bill move along in both chambers.”

SB 712, House Bill 2222, House Bill 3649 and Senate Bill 539 are the four bills the Texas Council on Family Violence had a part in, and all four have made various stages of progress through the legislative process. SB 712 is the first of the four bills to pass both the House and Senate Chambers.

Setliff said when the council plans legislation for the session they purposely choose issues that will receive bipartisan support. So far, they have been successful in preventing any sort of partisan split. SB 712 and SB 539 both received a single “nay” vote from Sen. Bob Hall, R-Canton, during the Senate votes, while HB 3649 was unanimously passed by the House. HB 2222 was unanimously passed by the Criminal Jurisprudence committee and is awaiting its first reading on the House floor.

“While there are a lot of areas that draw a line between the parties, this is not one of them,” Setliff said. “We have been very fortunate and worked very hard to keep it that way. As a domestic violence coalition, we stay focused on intimate partner violence and don’t jump into things that may be relevant to survivors, but are not right off the issue. I think that helps bring consensus to the legislative process in Texas.”