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Anti-SLAPP Law Rewrite Advances in Texas Senate

- Poised to Land on Governor’s Desk

The rewrite of Texas’ Anti-SLAPP law advanced in the Texas Senate this week with a hearing in the Senate chamber where Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, laid it out before the Senate State Affairs Committee. TAB has been doggedly working to ensure the measure retains the core Free Speech protections so important to newsrooms and to citizens compelled to speak out on matters of public concern.

After lengthy and contentious negotiations on the House side and a marathon hearing before the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee, TAB, Texans for Lawsuit Reform and several other parties engaged in the effort settled on language that addressed each party’s concerns.

The push for rewriting the statute stems from the fact that it has been invoked in several circumstances it was never intended to apply, such as efforts by one attorney to rebuff sanctions levied by the State Bar of Texas.

The measure, HB 2730 by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, passed the House April 30 with two agreed-to floor amendments and near unanimous support. It was voted favorably out of the Senate committee Monday afternoon. No further changes are anticipated in the Senate before it lands on Governor Greg Abbott’s desk.

As introduced by Leach, the measure initially gutted the original intent of the law. A bill filed by Hughes in the Senate, while different, had the same effect. After filing their bills, both indicated it was not their intent to scuttle the Free Speech protections contained in the law and committed themselves to negotiating alternate language.

One of TAB’s attorneys, Laura Prather with the Haynes and Boone law firm, was one of the few First Amendment attorneys engaged in the negotiations and TAB’s general counsel, Stacy Allen with the Jackson Walker law firm, provided key and compelling testimony in the House that helped chart a path to the resolution of newsrooms’ concerns.

TAB helped pass the law, known officially as the Texas Citizens Participation Act, in 2011 when Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, authored the bill with Prather’s assistance. Leach acknowledged Hunter’s leadership in advancing the statute during the House floor debate.

This session, in addition to directly advocating for newsrooms’ interests with legislators, TAB has been the biggest contributor to the legal fund for protecting the law which also secured significant support from Nexstar Broadcasting, Sinclair Broadcast Group and TEGNA. Several other parties also provided financial support.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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