Date: Fri, 24 May 2013 05:58:24 +0200
- Grits for Breakfast
Winding down: Handful of reform bills still viable in waning days of Lege
- The 83rd Texas Legislature is winding down and there are a handful good criminal justice bills that still have potential to pass this session.
The other day Grits had identified five good senate bills which had received unanimous committee recommendations and were eligible to be heard on the House floor. As of this morning, two have already been sent to the governor (SB 1611 on discovery reform and SB 825 making state bar sanctions for Brady violations public), one is scheduled for a vote today (SB 344 allowing habeas corpus writs in junk science cases), while another (SB 1238 expanding the jurisdiction of the Forensic Science Commission) is on tomorrow's House floor calendar. Only SB 1114 from that list (limiting Class C tickets for school misbehavior) has yet to be scheduled for a floor vote.
The Texas Tribune ran an item recently on another good senate bill that still needs a floor vote in the House: SB 1003 which would require the Criminal Justice Legislative Oversight Committee to hire a third-party reviewer to perform a comprehensive analysis of administrative segregation (solitary confinement) in Texas prisons. The bill was altered on the House side to make the review dependent on the CJLOC securing "gifts, grants and donations" which would mean it won't happen unless some outside entity ponies up the funds. That's a little lame but I bet there will be sources available.
As mentioned earlier, there were relatively few criminal justice reform bills passed out of the House but yesterday the Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard perhaps the most prominent one - HB 166 creating a "exoneration review commission." Prosecutors came out in force against this one and the hearing was made even more dramatic when late exoneree Tim Cole's brother went off on Sen. Joan Huffman for arguing that Texas has fixed all the problems with its justice system. She wasn't going to vote for it anyway so it's unclear how much that matters, but if the bill makes it out of committee there's still time for it to pass.
Finally, of the thousands of bills filed this session, including dozens involving criminal justice reforms, there's only one bill still alive that has the potential to reduce prison populations even at the margins: HB 1790 by Longoria (see Grits' earlier discussion) which passed the House and was referred to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. That committee will likely only meet one more time so let's hope the bill gets a hearing and moves quickly through the process. There's not much time left.