- H.B. 1706 (Representative Gutierrez): This bill adjusts the financial threshold for a Class B misdemeanor criminal mischief charge to reflect inflation rates. Counties will likely experience a positive fiscal impact due to savings associated with reduced incarceration costs. Section 28.03 of the Penal Code delineates the monetary thresholds for a criminal mischief offense. These threshold amounts have not been adjusted or indexed for inflation since 1993. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index, consumer goods with a value of $49 in 1993 are worth $75 today. Therefore, due to price increases over time, the current penalty grades for criminal mischief offenses may not reflect the present value of the property that has been damaged or lost. H.B. 1706 amends Section 28.03 to account for the dynamics of inflation by moving the Class B misdemeanor threshold from $50 up to $100. Ultimately, this bill will reduce the number of people incarcerated for a criminal mischief conviction, thereby easing county jail overcrowding and providing docket relief to county courts.
- H.B. 3327 (Representative Woolley): This bill limits liability in negligent hiring actions for employers that hire license holders with criminal records. The state and local counties will likely experience a positive fiscal impact due to savings associated with greater workforce development and economic reinvestment. Employers will be more inclined to hire job-seekers with a criminal record if the state eliminates a cause of action for negligent hiring based on knowledge of the employee’s past criminal activity. H.B. 3327 protects employers who give felons a “second chance” by limiting their liability in negligent hiring actions. As employment has been shown to be a significant factor in reducing and preventing criminal behavior, creating additional employment opportunities will lower recidivism while encouraging positive life changes that keep people from returning to crime.
- C.S.H.B. 3107 (Representative Menendez): This bill provides counties the option to suspend rather than terminate an individual’s medical benefits – such as Social Security Disability Insurance – during a period of confinement in county jail. The state will likely experience a positive fiscal impact due to savings associated with a more successful re-entry transition. Currently, individuals who are incarcerated in a county jail and who receive medical assistance in the form of Medicaid or Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance may have their benefits terminated. C.S.H.B. 3107 allows counties to suspend an individual’s medical benefits while he or she is incarcerated. Specifically, this bill would give authority to the sheriff of a county to notify the United States Social Security Administration of an individual’s release from a county jail in order to have medical benefits reinstated.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Smart-on-crime bills waiting for House floor votes
Via email, we learn that the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition is worried that several pieces of legislation aimed at reducing Texas inmate populations to stave off more prison building have been bottled up in the House Calendars Committee: