As of the end of business on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 1,702 bills have been filed (or roughly 25% of the eventual total, based upon recent history). Of those, the Legislature has so far proposed:Regular readers know Texas already has 2,383 separate felonies on the books, including 11 involving oysters. In an earlier post, I estimated the Over/Under for new felonies this session at 55 (including one new oyster felony), and these data from the prosecutors' association don't incline me at this point to revise that estimate.
I say ‘at least’ because some bills propose to create/enhance multiple crimes, therefore, the actual number of crimes affected could be higher. I only register a bill once for each of the above categories, so (for example) a bill that creates 1 felony and 1 misdemeanor-A crime only counts once for each of those two categories, as does a bill that creates 3 felonies and 2 misdemeanor-A crimes.
- creating at least 37 new felony crimes
- creating at least 47 new misdemeanor A/B crimes
- creating at least 28 new misdemeanor C crimes
- enhancing the current punishments of at least 36 existing crimes
The problem is, even if the Legislative Budget Board won't admit it, all these Orwellian-termed "enhancement" bills cost money at a time the state is $20 billion or so short. I'm willing to bet nearly all the bills Shannon identified will have "fiscal notes" claiming their cost is "insignificant," a convenient fiction that enables the tuff-on-crime crowd each session to write checks that the budget writers can pretend they'll never have to cash.
If LBB would just assign honest fiscal notes to these bills - since any rational person knows they'll cost money for state government, county governments or both - they'd almost all die virtually silent deaths, which is what they deserve. Instead everyone lies, pretending the naked emperor is really wearing clothes. Then the corrections budget keeps going up, and everyone wonders, "Why?"
MORE: I emailed back to ask Shannon if any new oyster-related crimes had been proposed. (Last session we had an oyster-related Class A misdemeanor pass, but no new felonies.) He said he'd seen nothing quite that "fun," but mentioned these examples:
- HB 405 makes improper tire disposal a felony.
- HB 613 makes improper timber harvesting a felony.
- HB 870 criminalizes certain deer breeding and trapping acts.
- HB 882 creates a "Four Loco" crime.
See prior, related Grits posts:
- 2,383 and counting: How many felonies from the 82nd Texas Legislature?
- New crimes, penalties 'enhance' nothing but spending side of state, county budgets
- Privatization and the fallacy of zero 'fiscal notes' for criminal penalty enhancements
- Bigger priority on vehicle burglaries: Solving crimes or harsher punishment?
- Levin: Time to rethink what's a crime
- 'Absolutely irresponsible': Okies boosting criminal penalties but can't house inmates they've got
- Parole board: Texas created 59 new felonies in 2009
- Truth in Sentencing Budgets: How the Legislature boosts prison expenses without paying for it
- Bills boosting penalties make statements rather than solve problems
- 40% of Criminal Jurisprudence bills boost criminal penalties
- Messages promoting sentence 'enhancements' may boost crime
- Penalty hikes represent a failure of imagination
- LBB hasn't learned there's no free lunch
- Who is to blame for prison red ink? LBB and those who believe them