Red Light Camera Compromise: I haven't tracked the issue this session, but Sen. Carona's SB 1119 regulating red light cameras has gone to conference committee larded with House amendments, including one that would require a pro-active legislative vote for cities to continue using cameras after 2009. Kuff has more.
Drug Courts and Progressive Sanctions: Two important pieces of the Whitmire/Madden prison diversion plan - SB 166 by West and HB 530 by Madden - have been finally passed and sent to the Governor. SB 166 (discussed here) establishes a system of progressive sanctions for probationers and HB 530 (discussed here and here) expands the use of drug courts. In addition Rep. Turner's HB 312 (discussed here), which would reduce technical probation revocations based on the inability to pay fees, has been finally passed and sent to the Governor. A few more big chunks of the Legislature's probation package are yet to emerge from the process, but this is a good start.
Incentives for Prison Discipline: Congratulations to Rep. Terri Hodge on the final passage of her HB 44, which allows good time to be restored to inmates at the discretion of TDCJ after it's been taken away for a rule infraction. The bill strikes one word: "not." It's easy to take a punitive stance and say if a prisoner breaks a rule, they should lose their good time as a consequence (good time counts extra, or is supposed to, toward an inmate's release). But as a practical matter the ability to take away and restore good time is a powerful management tool for guards and wardens running the prisons, and taking away that tool has contributed to making prisons a more dangerous place filled with hopeless people.
Big TYC Changes Afoot: The conference committee completed its final report on SB 103 (discussed here) and came to a compromise on TYC governance: The agency will be run by a Czar for two years, presumably Ed Owens, then a board and Senate-confirmed executive director will be appointed after the agency receives its upcoming Sunset review. (Capitol Annex also wrote about the compromise. Meanwhile, HB 2884 by Dutton has been placed on the Senate uncontested calendar and appears near final passage, a reader pointed out to me. (Frankly the bill had kinda dropped off my radar screen - sorry about that!)