Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Levin: Create new barriers in House rules to new crimes, penalty enhancements

Grits liked Marc Levin's suggestions to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee yesterday to reduce the proliferation of new laws and criminal penalty enhancements every session. 1) To create criminal penalties outside the penal code should require both the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and whatever committee normally handles the code to approve the bill. Anything that slows down the process for new criminal penalties would be helpful, he said. For example: 2) Disallow new crimes and enhancements from being passed on the House Local and Consent Calendar. He also suggested, 3) "strengthening the fiscal notes" for bills with new or enhanced criminal penalties to better reflect the true costs, particularly to local government and 4) requiring captions to state if the bill includes new crimes or penalty enhancements.

Levin noted that we have a process for "Sunsetting" agencies but not outdated criminal laws. He pointed to the example of Minnesota's governor calling an "Un-Session" to repeal outdated, duplicative and unnecessary laws and suggested the Legislature should create some sort of interim commission similar to that suggested in unsuccessful legislation by state Rep. Steve Toth last session. See the new TPPF by Vikrant Reddy on the topic, "More Law, Less Justice: The Proliferation of Non-Traditional Crimes in the Texas Legal Code" (pdf).

Shannon Edmonds from the Texas prosecutors' association told the committee there were now more criminal offenses in the Texas occupations code than the penal code.


Anonymous said...

These changes would be really welcome, however I always fear that new young legislators are wanting to burnish their "tuff on crime" credentials. Hopefully that urge will dissipate.

Prison Doc

Anonymous said...

Beautiful ideas, thank you Marc! And thank you Grits for letting us know.