This late in the legislative session, every day your bills are still alive is a good day. Here are just a few of the good bills criminal justice reformers are backing that still have legs as April grinds to a close:
- Probation reform. (Passed Senate committee)
- Requirement for written consent to search at traffic stops. (Passed Senate, headed to the House.)
- Racial profiling data repository. (Passed Senate committee, on intent calendar)
- Marijuana sentence restructuring. (Passed House committee, in Calendars waiting for floor vote.)
- Discovery by defense counsel of informant deals. (Passed House committee, in Calendars)
- Barring prosecutors from solciting waivers of counsel from defendants. (Passed House committee, in Calendars)
- Right to carry a legal weapon in a personal vehicle. (Passed House, in Senate committee)
- Needle exchange opt-in for local governments (Passed second reading in Senate, on intent calendar)
- Defense to prosecution for doctor-recommended medical marijuana (Hearing held, awaiting House committee vote)
I've gotta tell you, I hear a lot of liberals these days complaining that the Republican majority behaves maliciously and votes in lockstep. But that's not the case on criminal justice reform. I honestly think Texans should be proud of what's happening there, especially of the folks on the main committees handling these topics. With a few exceptions, there isn't a lot of partisanship exhibited in those debates on either side. For the most part, everybody's looking for solutions in good faith, just coming from different perspectives.
Liberals talk a lot about "diversity," but we often don't tolerate well the kind of diversity that really matters -- diversity of opinion. On criminal justice reform, it's often possible for people coming from different ideological places to reach the same conclusions, perhaps for different or at least only partially overlapping reasons. If you're okay with that -- if you can live with somebody voting with you, but not for the REASON you prefer -- and if you're willing to compromise, you can get a lot done at the Texas Lege.
You can't tell Republicans not to be Republicans. But you can ask them to do good things for Republican reasons. Most of them, at bottom, really want to.