HBA-MPM H.B. 176 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 176 By: Luna, Vilma Civil Practices 7/20/2001 Enrolled BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Prior to the 77th Legislature, state law provided that telecommunications technology only be used in criminal trials. For example, some counties conduct arraignments through the use of closed-circuit telecommunications. State law also permits closed-circuit television to be used in court cases in which the victim is a child. The rapidly growing changes in electronic communication technology can help expedite trial proceedings in a timely and efficient manner. House Bill 176 extends the use of electronic communication technology for certain civil proceedings subject to the order of a judge. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. ANALYSIS House Bill 176 amends the Civil Practice and Remedies Code to provide that with the agreement of the parties and after a witness is deposed, a trial judge is authorized to order that a hearing of a preliminary matter or witness testimony at trial be conducted by electronic means, including satellite transmission, closed circuit television transmission, or any other method of two-way electronic communication available to the parties, approved by the court, and capable of visually and audibly recording the proceedings. The bill provides that witness testimony at trial may be conducted by electronic means only if the witness is deposed before the trial begins. The bill requires a court that allows a transmission to consider it accurate and include it in the record of the case, unless the court determines otherwise. The bill requires a party to a transmission that is not in court to provide equipment that is compatible with the equipment used in court and authorizes the party to record the proceedings at the party's own expense. The bill provides that a copy of a videotaped proceeding may be obtained from the clerk of the court on payment of a reasonable amount to cover the cost of producing the copy and that expenses incurred by a court in conducting a proceeding or recording a transmission shall be assessed and collected as court costs. The bill amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to authorize a deposition or testimony of an inmate in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to be conducted by electronic means in a proceeding in the prosecution of a criminal offense in which the inmate is required to testify as a witness. EFFECTIVE DATE June 14, 2001.