I'll post something later about Barack Obama's new US Supreme Court nominee once I know enough about her to have an opinion. SCOTUSBLog is the go-to source on that topic and also on SCOTUS' decision yesterday to overturn Michigan v. Jackson, a case about the right to counsel with significant field implications for how officers interact with suspects.
At the Texas Lege, the news was disappointingly grim. Several key "innocence" bills and other criminal justice reform legislation pending in the House died when the clock tolled midnight last night, though there's a chance some of them can be revived at the last minute as amendments to House bills in the Senate. Basically, partisans were playing a big game of "chicken." No one blinked, so the result was a head-on crash that more or less totaled the 81st legislative session, especially since the House had passed relatively few bills before their final, homestretch run.
That's terribly bad news - an example of badly misplaced priorities by the majority in both parties in the lower chamber. I was frankly disappointed in the whole lot of them for letting this petty matter derail four months of work, leaving issues these bills would have addressed lingering for the next two years. In a state as large as Texas, if the Legislature is only going to meet biennially, I'd like to think legislators understand they have a responsibility to accomplish something when they're in town. (We didn't elect them, after all, to get nothing done.) Instead, everyone is focused on their own re-election or else scoring partisan political points. Voter ID only really interests hard-core partisans on both sides, but of course that's who tends to get elected.
Lots of stuff that really impacts Texans was on the list of now-dead bills in the House, including windstorm insurance and the Department of Insurance Sunset bill. On the issues I follow, the House allowed legislation sitting on its calendar since last week to die on the altar of the voter ID fight which would:
- Require police departments to maintain written policies following minimum best practices on eyewitness identification procedures.
- Encourage recording custodial interrogations of suspects by police.
- Expand access to the courts for habeas writs based on discredited scientific evidence used at trial.
- Restrict police and DA's ability to request "waivers" in asset forfeiture cases when no criminal or civil case has been filed as was done in Tenaha and elsewhere.
- Allow big cities to operate needle exchange programs to prevent disease and promote drug treatment.
There's one more day to see if the Senate can amend some of this language onto other bills, but even if they do, it won't mitigate how irresponsible it was to shut down the whole legislative session over voter ID. These folks have some seriously screwed-up priorities.