Abolish the Driver Responsibility surcharge
State Sen. Rodney Ellis filed legislation, SB 93, to repeal the driver responsibility program, expanding requirements for driver education coursed for folks with multiple violations in its stead. I expect similar House legislation to be filed, probably by Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock), who filed it last session. But they're really not going to solve this problem without identifying an alternative revenue stream for trauma hospitals.
Cops as bill collectors?
State Rep. Allen Fletcher wants cops to carry credit card swipers with them at traffic stops so they can accept payment for a ticket there on the spot instead of having the courts assess and accept Class C misdemeanor fines (HB 121). Certainly that would remove any pretense that traffic enforcement is about public safety as opposed to mulcting drivers in the name of revenue generation. Due process is still a guaranteed, constitutional right, though, even if as a practical matter it's become a pretense in most of the millions of Class C traffic cases every year. This idea seems like it's taking several long strides down a slippery slope.
Tent jails redux
HB 161 by Rep. Lyle Larson would allow counties to house prisoners in tents a la Joe Arpaio in Arizona. Sombody files this every year, but it's hard to see it going anywhere while the litigation at TDCJ over excessive heat is still pending - if those court rulings go against the state they'd just be doubling down on their troubles by passing this.
Don't remove statute of limitations in non-DNA rape cases
Several bills filed, all by Democrats, would remove the statute of limitations for rape in non-DNA cases, a terrible idea that will result in more false convictions. These bills are providing backup to some ill-considered Wendy Davis demagoguery from the campaign that should be swept aside as decisively as her political ambitions. This is bad public policy: Statute of limitations exist for a reason and a fair trial can't be had decades after the fact without forensic proof.
Sex pics criminalized if shared with others
State Rep. Ryan Guillen filed a bill making disclosure of photos depicting sexual conduct a state jail felony if the subject of the photo has not consented (think so-called "revenge porn"). I'll be interested to hear what First Amendment experts like Mark Bennett think about the idea. The Lege has lately seen a couple of other, related statutes struck down in the courts because they painted with too broad a brush and HB 101 seems cut from the same cloth.
Improper Photography 2.0
Rep. Jose Menendez filed a much narrower version of Texas' improper photography law (HB 147), which was recently, unanimously overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. I'd have to compare it more closely to the court decision, but he appears to be trying to limit the bill to its confies. (Note to Mark Bennett: Whaddya think?)
Back again on texting while driving
Several members, led by former Speaker Tom Craddick (HB 80), want to ban texting despite the fact that states which enacted such bans saw distracted driving crashes increase (people still use their phones, they just hold them in their laps making the process less safe). This has a shot because, though Perry vetoed it before, we now have a new governor.
Increase burden of proof on asset forfeiture
Sen. Chuy Hinojosa filed a good, incremental bill increasing the burden of proof in asset forfeiture cases from "preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing" (SB 95)
'Raise the Age'
Rep. Ruth McLendon Jones and Sen. Hinojosa both filed legislation (HB and SB, respectively) to raise the age of adult criminal liability from 17 to 18 years old. Part of me wished for Republican sponsors on this - maybe they can bolster support by garnering R joint and co-authors - but for a variety of reasons the issue may have legs this session no matter who is carrying it.
On the de-incarceration front, state Sen. Rodney Ellis filed SB 82 to expand use of community supervision for possession-level felony drug crimes. And Hinojosa has one to mandate that people convicted of serious felonies are released to supervision instead of being released directly from prison unsupervised (SB 99). Lots of Republicans were talking along the same lines during the interim; we'll see if anything comes of it.
John Whitmire has a bill (SB 106) to reduce the burden of truancy violations but which falls short of decriminalizing truancy as experts and advocates have proposed. In the House, though, Rep. James White filed a bill to eliminate the offense from the books altogether (HB 93). If that doesn't fly, White has another bill (HB 107) that would make the max penalty for truancy $20, far below Whitmire's thresholds and perhaps so low it's not worth the courts' time to process. And he filed HB 110 which would eliminate judges' ability to jail defendants found in contempt for failure to comply with ordes to attend school. So there's no clear consensus yet on how they'll do it, but folks are clearly hoping to address the truancy issue this session.
Limit grants to 'peace officer organization' engaged in politics
Jonathon Stickland filed a bill (HB 137) to ban state grants to "peace officer organizations" if they lobby or operate a PAC. I don't know what grants they get, but that oughtta get CLEAT and TMPA hot under the collar.
Ban red-light cameras
Stickland also filed HB 142 which would ban red-light camera enforcement systems as well as speed cameras. He's not the first to try, but I hope he succeeds.
Legalize the Bowie knife
That's the effect of Rep. James' White's HB 92. One would still be forbidden from owning a "dagger," "dirk," stiletto," and "poniard." I must say, if we're going to let folks carry guns virtually everywhere (and despite naysayers' criticisms, murder rates have fallen as that trend has grown), I fail to understand such sweeping restrictions on knives or why Second Amendment crowd hasn't insisted that the right to bear arms applies equally to daggers, poniards and Bowie knives as assault rifles and handguns. Maybe that's beginning: Last session the Lege legalized switchblades. A related bill by Jon Stickland (HB 172) would prevent municipalities from regulating knives, stunguns, and personal defense sprays.
'Nuther try for an innocence commission
Rep. McLendon and Sen. Rodney Ellis filed bills to create a special commission to study the causes of wrongful convictions and recommend reforms (HB 48 and SB 81). Last session a similar bill passed the House but failed to make it through the senate. Said McLendon in a press release, "This is not an issue of party politics; it is an issue of ethics. At every stage of the criminal justice process, we have a moral and legal responsibility to assure that no innocent person is convicted while a truly guilty one goes free." According to the release, "primary tasks of the commission would be considering solutions and methods designed to correct errors and defects in the system by changing state rules, regulations, procedures and legislation."
This isn't a comprehensive list but just the stuff that immediately jumped out at me. See the full list from yesterday, and more bills will be filed today.