There's little question SB 103 is the most significant change in Texas' juvenile laws in more than a decade, reversing 'tuff' juvenile crime policies launched when George W. Bush was governor. Now it heads to a conference committee to work out differences with the Senate. Amendments to get rid of the board of directors and to allow misdemeanants to be sentenced to TYC were tabled, though Chairman Madden accepted quite a few smaller changes on the floor.
I've watched Chairman Madden's work closely on this committee and admire him a lot - he deserved every bit of the praise Rep. Terri Hodge heaped on him after the bill's passage. Truly, even at the height of the media frenzy, his was always the coolest head. This bill is an impressive piece of legislative work given the environment and short time frame, and on the House side he deserves the lion's share of the credit, which I'm sure he'd be the first to share with his committee. He's that kind of chair.
Finally, deserving tons of credit for her work behind the scenes is my friend Isela Gutierrez of the Texas Coalition Advocating Justice for Juveniles. She's the activist who first clued Sylvester Turner's chief of staff Alison Brock and the Texas Observer onto the West Texas story, and she's worked tirelessly at the Lege to make the most of this unique opportunity for reform. I hope she's proud of her work, because I honestly think that the Pyote scandal would never have been made public, and SB 103 certainly would never have passed in this very strong form, if Isela Gutierrez had never moved back to Texas from Seattle to work on juvenile justice.
MORE: See next-day coverage from AP, the Statesman, and the Dallas News.
Isela Guierrez at TCAJJ sent out an email today (Tuesday) pointing to a press release from the Speaker of the House and updating supporters about SB 103's House passage, including information on how to watch the debate:
You can watch the bill's passage last night at this link.
Click on the very last archived House chamber session (5/7/07, 2:00 p.m. - 12:45 a.m.) and go to 7:12:14 on the video.
The next step for the bill is to go to conference committee, where members of the House and Senate will iron out of the differences between the two bills. Most significant among those differences is the commission vs. board structure and the independence of the ombudsman.
Although it's not a one-shot cure-all for TYC's numerous troubles, it sets us well on the path toward turning TYC from a punitive and abusive warehouse into a rehabilitative model that will actually work for kids, families, and Texas. Warm thanks to all of you who helped make this possible!