Thursday, February 12, 2009

Criminal justice committees in the Texas House

Texas House committee assignments are (finally) out today - see here (pdf). Here's the list for criminal justice related committees:

Chair: Jim McReynolds
Vice Chair: Jerry Madden
Kirk England
Terri Hodge
Harold Dutton
Lois Kolkhorst
Marisa Marquez
Armando Martinez
Sid Miller
Solomon Ortiz, Jr.
Ralph Sheffield
Criminal Jurisprudence:
Chair: Pete Gallego
Vice Chair: Wayne Christian
Robert Miklos
Joseph Moody
Paula Piereson
Allen Fletcher
Terri Hodge
Carol Kent
Debbie Riddle
Allen Vaught
Hubert Vo
Public Safety:
Chair: Tommy Merritt
Vice Chair: Stephen Frost
Joe Driver
Hubert Vo
Lon Burnam
Phil King
Tryon Lewis
Barbara Mallory-Caraway
Eddie Rodriguez
Some initial thoughts, in no particular order:

First, each of these committees has new chairs. On Corrections the chairmanship flipped parties, though that may make less of a difference policy-wise than the new chairs on the other two panels.

Corrections looks like it will be a particularly reform-minded committee, as it's been in each of the last couple of sessions. (OTOH, they basically have to be - the prisons are stuffed full of mostly parole-eligible, nonviolent offenders and the committee must either embrace diversion programs or spend billions to build new prisons.) I'm sorry to see Jerry Madden lost his chairmanship, but he and Jim McReynolds worked closely together last session and the new chair was on board with most of the work Madden was doing there. Democrats dominate the committee by a 7-4 margin.

I'm excited to see Pete Gallego named chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, since that's where a lot of the innocence-related legislation went (and died) during the 80th Legislature. Last time the committee was dominated by Democrats (as it is this go-round) but became a killing field for reform bills while passing a slew of criminal penalty increases (so-called "enhancements"). This session, the budget crunch makes passing ever more lengthy sentences a less politically feasible approach. Allen Fletcher on that committee is the only former police officer currently serving in the House.

On Public Safety (which last session was the "Law Enforcement" Committee), Tommy Merritt, a Longview Republican, replaces Joe Driver as chair. Merritt wasn't on any criminal justice-related committees last session so I don't have a good sense of his positions on the hot-button law enforcement topics of the day, but my sense from his floor votes is that he's a bit more libertarian than Driver, who tended to reflexively side with prosecutors and police.

A big loss on the criminal justice front was Sylvester Turner's (perhaps predictable) departure from the Appropriations Committee, where he played an incredibly pivotal role last session in funding diversion programs and opposing new prison construction. There are quite a few good people on Appropriations, though, who conceivably could pick up the ball in that area. We'll know more when Chairman Jim Pitts names the membership on that panel's Criminal Justice Subcommittee, which is where most of the heavy lifting will happen.

With Lois Kolkhorst chairing Public Health after Diane Delisi's retirement, I'm willing to bet needle exchange legislation will have a lot easier time making it through that committee (or at least getting a vote). The full House last session supported a pilot program in a floor amendment so if a bill can make it out of committee, it's likely to pass.

Also, with the issues swirling around reconstructing UTMB-Galveston, it's perhaps telling that Galveston's Craig Eiland is Speaker Pro-Tempore and also will serve on Appropriations. The UT-System is suggesting moving the bulk of the medical facilities off the island except for the state prison hospital located there, but Eiland will likely have a lot to say about those decisions. The full impact of Hurricane Ike on Texas' prison medical services has yet to be fully documented, but from what I hear the Department of Criminal Justice is still reeling from the disruption of medical services.

Committee assignments are arriving incredibly late this year. By this time last session all of these committees had already begun meeting. So while the new chairs mean there could be significant staff turnover and they'll probably need another week to take care of organizational concerns, after that I'd expect things to kick into gear pretty quickly.

MORE: See additional commentary on committee appointments from Burnt Orange Report and Postcards from the Lege. Kuff rounds up the blogospheric reactions.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I wonder how this will impact the Sunset Commission's Rec for consolidation?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good question, 4:39. The Corrections Committee had complete turnover except for the top two slots, so most of these members have no history on the topic to judge from. The only exception would be Lois Kolkhorst who was actually on the Sunset panel. She voted against the merger.

Rage Judicata said...

so most of these members have no history on the topic to judge from.

They do, however, have a shiny new sunset report to read and a basic knowledge of TYC abuses, so I bet they vote for the consolidation.

Anonymous said...

Judging from the string of posts on the Juvie Director welcome I bet there will be a few who will school them. Any lobbyist pushing for the consolidation I wonder?

Anonymous said...

I see Terri Hodge on Corrections. I like Terri personally, but thought she was in some kind of deep doodoo. Whatever happened on that deal?
Charles Kiker

Anonymous said...

How can Terri Hodge keep her job after being indicted on bribery charges? If it were any other average joe, we would get fired on the spot. How hypocritical is it that she is involved in the criminal justice system on both ends? Corrupt politicians make me sick, get her sorry ass out of office. PRONTO!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"How can Terri Hodge keep her job after being indicted on bribery charges?"

All somebody had to do was run against her and beat her. She drew no opponents.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any insight on the bill Berman is trying to pass? He's trying to make "improper relationship with a student" a registerable offense. My brother had a relationship with his 19 yr old student, when he was 24.
They're married now with 2 kids.

Anonymous said...

To 8:12

HB 265 introduced, no action taken.

81R67 KEL-D

By: Berman H.B. No. 265

relating to the applicability of sex offender registration
requirements to the offense of improper relationship between
educator and student.
SECTION 1. Article 62.001(5), Code of Criminal Procedure,
is amended to read as follows:
(5) "Reportable conviction or adjudication" means a
conviction or adjudication, including an adjudication of
delinquent conduct or a deferred adjudication, that, regardless of
the pendency of an appeal, is a conviction for or an adjudication
for or based on:
(A) a violation of Section 21.02 (Continuous
sexual abuse of young child or children), 21.11 (Indecency with a
child), 22.011 (Sexual assault), 22.021 (Aggravated sexual
assault), or 25.02 (Prohibited sexual conduct), Penal Code;
(B) a violation of Section 43.05 (Compelling
prostitution), 43.25 (Sexual performance by a child), or 43.26
(Possession or promotion of child pornography), Penal Code;
(C) a violation of Section 20.04(a)(4)
(Aggravated kidnapping), Penal Code, if the actor committed the
offense or engaged in the conduct with intent to violate or abuse
the victim sexually;
(D) a violation of Section 30.02 (Burglary),
Penal Code, if the offense or conduct is punishable under
Subsection (d) of that section and the actor committed the offense
or engaged in the conduct with intent to commit a felony listed in
Paragraph (A) or (C);
(E) a violation of Section 20.02 (Unlawful
restraint), 20.03 (Kidnapping), or 20.04 (Aggravated kidnapping),
Penal Code, if, as applicable:
(i) the judgment in the case contains an
affirmative finding under Article 42.015; or
(ii) the order in the hearing or the papers
in the case contain an affirmative finding that the victim or
intended victim was younger than 17 years of age;
(F) the second violation of Section 21.08
(Indecent exposure), Penal Code, but not if the second violation
results in a deferred adjudication;
(G) an attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation, as
defined by Chapter 15, Penal Code, to commit an offense or engage in
conduct listed in Paragraph (A), (B), (C), (D), [or] (E), or (K);
(H) a violation of the laws of another state,
federal law, the laws of a foreign country, or the Uniform Code of
Military Justice for or based on the violation of an offense
containing elements that are substantially similar to the elements
of an offense listed under Paragraph (A), (B), (C), (D), (E), (G),
[or] (J), or (K), but not if the violation results in a deferred
(I) the second violation of the laws of another
state, federal law, the laws of a foreign country, or the Uniform
Code of Military Justice for or based on the violation of an offense
containing elements that are substantially similar to the elements
of the offense of indecent exposure, but not if the second violation
results in a deferred adjudication; [or]
(J) a violation of Section 33.021 (Online
solicitation of a minor), Penal Code; or
(K) a violation of Section 21.12 (Improper
relationship between educator and student), Penal Code.
SECTION 2. The change in law made by this Act applies to a
person who is subject to Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, on
or after the effective date of this Act, regardless of whether the
applicable offense or conduct occurs before, on, or after the
effective date of this Act.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2009.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I would like to get verication of something in hb 265 from the author of the bill or his represetative. The news media has said this bill will be retroactive; the language of the bill indicated that it would not apply to an individual sentenced or adjudicated before the bill's effective date of Sept. 2009. Which of these is accurate, and, if retroactive, back to when?

Anonymous said...

The media said something about it being retroactive to 83. The improper relationship law wasn't implemented until 2003. The member that introduced the law in 2003 said she intended this law to be a misdemeanor.

Anonymous said...

I need your comment A sex offender or has access to a minor child. however, his sexual crime with a minor child on two seperate children did not go to trial because the victims were afraid. So he is not on the sex offender list. He spends time with my grand child. what can I do about it. please email me with comments.