Sunday, May 20, 2007

Innocence and Redemption

The proposed Texas Innocence Commission looks pretty dead right now, but it's not to late to contemplate its possible resurrection before the 80th legislative session ends.

A Burnt Orange Report commenter correctly points out that SB 263, the Innocence Commission bill that died an ignominious death on Friday in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, could still be resurrected by amending the language to a germane bill that's up on Monday's House calendar, another Ellis bill on increasing the compensation for wrongfully convicted people.

The commenter, Scott Cobb, is exactly right: Innocence Commission supporters should amend language from SB 263 establishing a Texas Innocence Commission onto SB 167 on the House floor, and then Chairman Peña and Democratic committee members who blew this in committee would have an opportunity to redeem themselves and show their support for the bill from the back mike, by voting for it, and by lobbying their colleagues to do the same.

Yogi Berra said it's not over until it's over, and it ain't over. There's still a chance for Texas to create an Innocence Commission during the 80th session, and for Democrats on the Criminal Jursprudence Committee who dropped the ball on this bill to earn a little redemption.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are the chances after what has been said. That would be more than would be expected from the average person. I am concerned that Ellis' other bill would pay the same price. You boys have been carrying the ball and so far it doesn't look good.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hard to know - "what has been said" is arguably just everyone involved saying they REALLY wanted the bill. The debate is whether Friday's screwup was intentional or not. This approach would give everyone a chance to show they weren't just playing politics with this bill and help put bad blood behind them.

Anonymous said...

I'm not holding my breath. We were pretty over the top on this one.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Who are "you boys" carrying ball, btw?

To me, the issue is whether politicians are really there to pass good bills or gratify their own egos. To the extent it's the former, this shouldn't be a problem at all - it's the adult way to handle it. To the extent it's the latter, you're right, it's an uphill climb.

JT Barrie said...

The real question is whether the goal in criminal justice is punishing people of questionable character who might cause trouble or whether you want to limit the punishment to those who actually get caught causing trouble. If you give police free reign to convict questionable people [such as people who are social misfits] using questionable means you can getter more convictions. Of course this costs taxpayers more money - but that actually works out for police, prosecutors and prison administrators.
And besides this makes a lot of good churchgoing folks feel much better about themselves knowing that a lot of "bad" folks get "what's coming to them". After all, isn't religious belief all about measuring oneself against the sins of others.

RoAN said...

jt, no religion is not about comparing your sins to mine. And those churchgoing folk you like to disparage are the ones that do the most good in this world.

It's statements like that from the left that make center-right people question bills like this. Sometimes, it is how you frame the argument that gets heard, not the argument itself.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not just sometimes, RoAN - ALL the time it's how you frame the argument.

Glad to see we've shifted you now to the "center right" - if it sticks we'll have to find you a new nickname! ;)

Anonymous said...

Pena had the votes to get SB 263 out for the majority of the meeting (Mallory-Caraway was there at the beginning and Hodges came in as she was leaving and was there to just before the end), however he waited until Hodge left to bring the bill up.

Scott Cobb said...

What are the rules about adding amendments on third readings? Could an amendment for the Innocence Commission be added to SB 909, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice sunset bill, when it comes up on 3rd reading in the House?

Scott Cobb said...

I found the answer.

A bill may be amended again on third reading, but amendments at this stage require a two-thirds majority for adoption.

I hope someone offers an amendment and that 100 House members vote for an Innocence Commission.