SD6 special: Early voting begins tomorrow (Monday) for the special election to fill the unexpired term of former Sen. and current U.S. Rep.-elect Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston). Four candidates are vying for the seat, which will be up for re-election in 2020 and 2022. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood Votes PAC endorsed Rep. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston).

AG: The Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday, in a 6-3 decision, overruled a lower court decision to approve legal fees for special prosecutors handing the criminal case against Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton (R). The court concluded that the lower court had no discretion to approve an hourly fee that differed from the fixed fee approved by local judges. The court ordered the lower court to approve a new fee based on that locally approved fee schedule.

Judge Kevin Yeary concurred and dissented in part. Judges Elsa Alcala, Mary Lou Keel and Scott Walker dissented. Alcala, who is retiring from the court, said the decision would have widespread implications for indigent defense programs, particularly in complex cases, because attorneys know they may not be compensated for time spent on the case.

Paxton was indicted by a Collin Co. grand jury in August 2015 on three felony counts of securities fraud and acting as an unregistered investment adviser. After multiple delays, his trial was scheduled to begin in December 2017, but was delayed again while prosecutors sought to resolve a long simmering dispute over their compensation. A similar federal case has been dismissed twice.

HD62: Rep. Reggie Smith (R-Sherman) was sworn into office on Wednesday by District Judge Larry Phillips (R), whom Smith succeeded. Smith won the special election to fill Phillips’s unexpired term and won a full term on Election Day.

CD18: Houston optometrist Bimal Patel established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) as a Republican in 2020.

CD24: Lewisville attorney Stephen Kuzmich established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of U.S. Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton) as an independent in 2020.

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