Good bills up in House Corrections
First, be sure to check out prior Grits coverage of good bills up in House Corrections today, including HB 530 authorizing the proliferation of drug courts in Texas. See the livestream of the hearing which begins at 10 a.m..
Restricting employers from restricting guns?
Should private employers be allowed to fire or discipline employees, especially those with concealed carry permits, who leave legal guns in their vehicles in the parking lot? That's the subject of four of the five bills up in today's House Law Enforcement Committee. Take a look at them and tell me what you think. Me, I'm of two minds: I generally think legal gun owners should be allowed to carry them in their vehicles, but I also don't see that the Second Amendment endorses prohibitions on employers from restricting employees in ways that wouldn't be allowable for the government. Tough call - my gut goes with the gun owners, if the weapon is safely stowed, but I find myself uncomfortable waiving traditional employer rights. What do you think?
Mental health and antebellum criminal justice
On her new blog, As the Island floats, Galveston District Judge Susan Criss offers a brief history lesson on a key leader of the earliest American efforts to distinguish mentally ill from criminal behavior and seek alternative solutions. Some days it seems like things haven't changed all that much.
A Lawyer Walks Into A Bar (Exam)
Former Austin Statesman reporter Jonathon Osbourne, who I knew a little bit when he covered the city hall beat, is one of the co-producers of a film that will debut at the SXSW film festival in Austin about lawyers preparing to take the California Bar Exam. Find out more here.
Travis County tries restorative justice for violent offenders
The Austin Statesman's Joshunda Sanders writes this morning about a restorative justice program at the Travis County Jail aimed at violent offenders that appears to be reducing recidivism. "Since January 2005, the Travis County sheriff's department has been enrolling hundreds of county jail inmates in Resolve to Abolish Violence Everywhere, or RAVE, a restorative justice program that includes General Educational Development classes, victim-offender meetings, counseling and job assistance when inmates return to the community. The program, which includes some faith-based counseling, is paid for with grant money and volunteer fundraising efforts."
Levin: Some employment barriers aimed at reducing competition, not improving safety
Last week the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Marc Levin had this terrific op ed in the Austin Statesman responding to this news article advocating ways to remove unnecessary barriers to employment for ex-offenders. Levin identified 168 separate job categories banned for ex-offenders whether or not their offense relates to the job. He wrote: "Many of the 168 prohibitions were never voted on by elected officials. Instead, they are bureaucratic regulations found in the Texas Administrative Code. In many instances, these rules were promulgated by boards controlled by members of the occupation who have a financial interest in keeping out competition."
Three rings plus animals at Willacy County circus
This news is a little old now, and while I was recuperating last week I tried not to waste too many brain cells monitoring the escalating ridiculousness in Willacy County, where the DA has ordered all pending criminal cases re-filed for fear a rival might have tampered with them. But it's impossible to ignore. It's like a car wreck on the Interstate - it's hard not to watch the mayhem as you drive by. Now we discover in this morning's Austin Statesman that the tentacles of this South Texas political mess may reach all the way into the statehouse, with the District Attorney (who I kid you not brought a barnyard full of animals to join his one-man demonstration in front of the courthouse) investigating state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. on possible corruption charges involving prison lobbying contracts. Senator Lucio, for his part, won't discuss the contracts except to say they're of "modest" size and to deny wrongdoing. (South Texas Chisme says it doesn't hurt to ask the question. The Statesman mentioned that "Guerra's investigation into a bribery scheme involving federal prison contracts led to guilty pleas from three former Willacy and Webb county commissioners." More background here.)
How to decifer this mangle? Thankfully, Billy Clyde's Political Hot Tub Party has the best description I've seen of this FUBAR legal soap opera. He quoted Sheriff Larry Spence pleading incredulity, to which Billy Clyde responded:
Sure. Play the naivete card. Who, in this day and age, hasn't had a local District Attorney thrown out of office by an acting special prosecutor who has his own cases thrown out by a District Judge who is then removed from office and cannot accept cases because of his own ethical problems but can reinstate the sheriff if only the defense bar would permit it. All this while the sheriff and and a movie star threaten to make a Lifetime Movie and camp out on the courthouse lawn. I mean, come on. That shit happens everyday.