Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More criminal justice bills pre-filed at the Texas Lege

Here are a few more bills (see here, here, here and here for earlier installments) from the first week of pre-filing at the Texas Legislature that may merit Grits readers' attention:

Can prison spending be limited to population/inflation growth rates?
There are a couple of bills out there to restrict state spending to the combined effects of inflation and population growth, like this one, so it's worth mentioning that state prison spending has far surpassed those rates consistently for more than three decades. Also, there's a basic math problem with a constitutional amendment proposed by rookie Sen. Charles Perry limiting budget growth to the sum of inflation and population growth (or personal income growth, whichever is lesser). However, to actually index spending you would multiply those rates, not add them. Over time, his method would systematically under-fund the budget if not corrected. Perhaps if legislators want a smaller budget, they should propose cuts instead of constitutional amendments.

Whither border security funding if highway money spent on highways?
Also on the budget front, SB 139 by rookie Sen. Charles Perry and SB 184 by Sen. Charles Schwertner would cease using money from the state highway fund to finance the Department of Public Safety. The questions then become: Where does DPS funding come from? And, is their border security profile sustainable without tax increases?

How to raise local property taxes everywhere
HB 191 by Rep. Jim Murphy creating mandatory minimums for people convicted of multiple misdemeanors would launch a new 21st century jail building boom in Texas. County commissioners and Sheriffs, if they're wise, will come out of the woodwork to oppose this. In many counties in recent years, rising jail costs have been the primary driver for local property tax increases.

Record custodial interrogations
State Sen. Rodney Ellis has once again filed legislation to require recording interrogations of people suspected of serious, violent offenses. Make me philosopher king and I'd require recording of all custodial interrogations, but this is a good start. Last session state  Rep. Terry Canales carried  companion legislation in the House and Grits expects him to file the bill again in the 84th session.

Prioritize saving lives over prosecution in overdose cases
Rep. Ryan Guillen put forward a version of a Good Samaritan bill, HB 225, to make it a defense to prosecution on drug charges for people who call 911 when someone they're with overdoses. There have been several versions of this kicking around over the years. Last session a version cleared committee but, like many criminal justice reform bills, never received a vote on the House floor.

Grants, policies for police bodycams
In 2003, state Sen. Royce West carried legislation that created a grant fund for police departments to apply to install dashcams in patrol cars, and most of them did. Now he's filed SB 158 which would authorize the state to issue grants for police body cams and requires those using them to create written policies that govern their use and train on them. The difference between this and the one authorizing dashcams is that in 2003, Sen. West also passed a measure authorizing a statewide bond election for money to pay for them (which voters approved) and requirements for racial profiling reporting that were more stringent if departments didn't have cameras in their cars. This bill presently includes neither as many carrots nor sticks as his earlier legislation. For body cams to be adopted as widely as dashcams, there'd need to be a pot of money to fund these grants and some incentive for departments to use them.

No probation for illegal immigrants?
In SB 174, Sen. Joan Huffman recommends that "illegal aliens" be denied the chance to receive community supervision as a punishment, another potential budget buster for both state prisons and county jails. If this bill doesn't receive a gigantic "fiscal note" it will be proof once and for all that the Legislative Budget Board's mechanism for assessing bills' fiscal cost is utterly and profoundly broken.

8 comments:

Katy Anders said...

So you're saying that our kids ought to think about careers in the prison industry.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Except nobody seems to want a career in the prison industry at the rates they pay.

Anonymous said...

I had a judge tell me in open court that he won't give probation to an illegal alien because the defendant would automatically be in violation of condition #1 (commit no crime...) the moment the sentence was handed down simply by his presence in the US. I can't argue with that logic, but it seems to me there should be some caveat on that requirement if ICE doesn't have a hold or a pending immigration case for the defendant.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:19, if you can't argue with that logic then you need to consult with an immigration lawyer. Being in the country is a civil violation. They're not committing an ongoing crime in the way you imply.

Agreed about Ds without an ICE hold.

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Fundraiser said...

In Re: SB 139, "The question then becomes: Where does DPS funding come from?"

They could always have a bake sale, or sell DPS cookies door-to-door.

Anonymous said...

They are offering for correctional officers 4 k bonus 3 k for 90 days then 4 k. That is 1 k a week.

Anonymous said...

Cameras on police are great and should be a no-brainer. The resulting footage almost always supports the officer and puts them on their best behavior. That they learn to adapt quickly by baiting suspects into looking really bad before mentioning the camera certainly reduces the numbers of complaints, they even teach such as part of their yearly training hours. :(