Also notable was Shannon's grim analysis of "the (sorry) state of the proposed state budget with respect to probation":
Here are the low-lights of the House and Senate versions of the original budget bills, as we discussed earlier this session:Wow ... making the deletion of state misdemeanor probation funding permanent is really going to rankle some feathers at the county level. Misdemeanors are stuff like, you know, DWIs!! Are they really going to go home to run for reelection having eliminated funding for DWI supervision? I worked professionally as an opposition researcher for a dozen years, so I know how this works: Whether or not there's a direct correlation, the first child to die from a drunk driver on probation after the cuts go into effect will have a bill reinstating the funds named after them heading into the next session, and the issue will become hard-hitting fodder against incumbents in both primary and general elections. Who wants to be the guy (or gal) who voted to cut money for ignition interlocks, specialized DWI caseloads, residential treatment, etc., and then have that hung around their neck as DWI horror stories rack up? Ditto for domestic violence misdemeanors. Even incidents that would have happened anyway will get blamed on those voting for the cuts, given the shrill, ruthless nature of modern political campaigning.
The Senate version is currently more favorable in several areas, but that was based on using some of the Rainy Day Fund. Now that the Governor has made that a non-starter for the next budget (see our Quotes section below), the House's more drastic reductions in probation funding appear to be closer to the eventual product. Furthermore, several new bills—including HB 3664 by Otto, HB 3649 by Otto, and SB 1583 by Ogden—would permanently remove TDCJ's obligation or ability to fund any part of misdemeanor probation in the future (perhaps under the theory that misdemeanors are a local issue, not a state problem). The impact of those bills and that final budget will vary by location, so talk to your local CSCD for the details on your local situation. However, it is probably safe to say that several residential treatment facilities will close and specialized caseloads will be reduced or eliminated, while CSCDs will be forced to spread around what little felony probation funding they still get to help with other unfunded obligations. How that will all shake out is still to be determined, but it won't be pretty.
- State funding of misdemeanor probation (about one-third of the total cost) is eliminated
- Felony probation funding is also reduced
- Support of treatment/diversion programs is rolled back to 2007 levels
- Supervision officers and direct care staff salaries are rolled back to 2009 levels
- BIPP funding is eliminated
- TAIP funding is cut (90% cut in the House, 51% in the Senate)
- Mental health services are slashed
So here's an idea: Why not avoid such unpleasantness? How 'bout the Legislature STOP jacking up criminal penalties, kill those 308 bills, pass Rep. Harold Dutton's legislation reducing low-level drug penalties, and use the savings to re-fund misdemeanor probation, maybe even pay for more specialized caseloads and electronic monitoring instead of putting more population pressure on county jails? That's gotta be better than eliminating misdemeanor probation funding, which strikes me as potential political suicide given the public tenor of the day on DWI issues.