House Bill 135 seems like a bill that was designed to help parents who are being investigated for child abuse or neglect. However, in this bill, Child Protective Services caseworkers would be required to notify an alleged perpetrator of their right to only record audio in an investigative interview, not any other manner, and then make that interview subject to subpoena.
When HB 135 was heard in the House committee, I and other advocates testified against it, as we were suspicious of its true intentions. As suspected, the language has changed to now LIMIT your right to record and ONLY record audio.
Texas law already gives parents the right to record audio and/or video under one-party recording laws, as long as they are part of the conversation. Many parents already exercise this right, and CPS doesn’t like that! CPS wants those recordings.
This bill tricks everyone into thinking the bill is helping parents, while it’s really setting limits and narrowing a right that already exists. Keep in mind that most parents do not have attorneys at this point in the case, so they are alone in making decisions about the kind of evidence that is about to be gathered against them during an interview.
If the bill was genuine, it would simply notify a parent of their right to record openly or in secret—end of story—no limits to audio-only, no threats of subpoenas. That’s the simple right that parents have now, and it should stay that way.
So we are clear, if I was ever under CPS investigation, I would record in every manner possible, but not openly so the caseworker could see; I would record secretly. Remember that. The department can’t subpoena things they don’t know exists. Until the department brings back due process, you must always have the upper hand.
The way it is written, HB 135 stomps on constitutional rights, privacy rights, state law recording rights, and even property rights. Call the members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to express your opposition.
Note: HB135 passed the Texas House on April 9 by a vote of 144 to 0. The bill was heard in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee on May 5 and is currently left pending in committee.
Chair Kolkhorst: 512-463-0118
Vice Chair: 512-463-0128
Sen. Blanco: 512-463-0129
Sen. Buckingham: 512-463-0124
Sen. Campbell: 512-463-0125
Sen. Hall: 512-463-0102
Sen. Miles: 512- 463-0113
Sen. Powell: 512-463-0110
Sen. Seliger: 512-463-0131
This is a commentary republished with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to firstname.lastname@example.org.