Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hissy fits have consequences: Juvie bills derailed by grand-jury reform fight

In the midst of a feud with Sen. John Whitmire over failed legislation to reform the state's pick-a-pal grand jury system, Rep. Harold Dutton exercised his authority as Chair of the Juvenile Justice and Family Matters Committee to cancel a meeting last night. The apparent motive: Retaliation. The agenda included Whitmire's reorganization of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, shifting more youth to county control. Bills by Senators Burton, Uresti, Eltife and Schwertner were also affected.

In theory, I suppose, nobody could make Dutton convene the committee again this session, though such behavior might not get him invited back as chair next time. Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg penned a column laying blame for the grand-jury reform mess at Dutton's feet, and though I like and respect Dutton, that's a sentiment universally shared by insiders observing the debacle close up. Dutton carries too many bills and doesn't always work them aggressively. At times, there are inexplicable bungles. And what happened on the floor on grand-jury reform was an unnecessary disaster. (If needle exchange could get 92 votes on second reading, for heaven's sake, Dutton should have been able to find 76!)

I've seen multiple lists of legislators who would likely flip on Thompson's amendment if the vote were held again. They voted for it because members didn't understand the bill and Dutton hadn't worked the room. Part of the blame lies with advocates for the change, to be sure: If members didn't understand the bill, that's because nobody explained it to them. But the chairman can't escape a sizable share of culpability.

Between killing raise-the-age legislation by chubbing the gay marriage re-ban and now potentially scuttling juvenile de-incarceration in addition to grand-jury reform, Democrats run the risk of derailing the bulk of criminal-justice reform legislation still moving in these final stages of the session.

In the legislative process, at least, hissy fits have consequences.

UPDATE: In the waning hours of Thursday evening, Dutton amended the senate version of the grand jury bill onto other legislation. With Ed Thompson's amendment added to make it apply only in counties with more than 500,000 population, it passed without debate. See coverage from the Houston Chronicle.

15 comments:

Emmanuel said...

God bless you!
Immanuel

harold dutton said...

And I forgot to mention, who do you think you are to tell me "how many bills I can carry". And you sure as hell have no idea of the work my staff and I put into the work for the folks who sent me here. You must be pretty busy also since you don't have the time to speak with me about why the committee meeting was cancelled. Creating the news may be a lot easier than reporting the news but then you should state that you are a tabloid.

harold dutton said...

Repeating my earlier comment. Your article is unadulterated BS. The JJ&FI Committee meeting was cancelled because of the lateness of the hour at the time we adjourned. Nothing more, nothing less. Since all we had were Senate bills they could be taken up later and members wanted to simply go home after we adjourned. Scott, I expected more from you but perhaps you have been infected with Falkenberg-itus. In any case, you seem full of yourself and some other stuff that's not on the FDA list for consumption. Additionally, I challenge you to publish either of the lists of members who would likely flip, as you say, on Thompson's amendment. I'm sure we will wait till hell freezes over for you to do so. Moreover, you state that members did not understand the bill. Again, I challenge you to produce the list of names of members who told you they didn't understand the bill. Again, you made this up in a feeble attempt to write a story. It appears that rather than grits for breakfast, your breakfast had a higher methane content. Sincere ignorance is no excuse and neither is your conscientious stupidity.
Have a nice day.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Chmn. Dutton, this is an opinion blog, and I'm sorry you disagree with mine. I don't question how hard your staff works, or you. I've seen it. And you're entitled to file as many bills as you like, obviously, whether you're able to promote them all or not.

As to members who would likely change their votes, I've not spoken to members but to others surveying them for a possible re-vote - I'd be happy to share that information with you privately.

I'm not your enemy here, and neither is John Whitmire.

Anonymous said...

OMG! This is priceless!! LOL!

Anonymous said...

me thinks you doth protest too much

Anonymous said...

'Sincere ignorance is no excuse and neither is your conscientious stupidity.
Have a nice day.' Spoken like a whiny little bitch.

TriggerMortis said...

Dutton came through: http://www.chron.com/news/article/Grand-jury-reform-bill-alive-again-passes-House-6264858.php

harold dutton said...

It is not your opinion that was offensive. It was your statement of what you call facts which cannot be so because they were untrue. If you are anything, even an enemy, you should never resort to less than truth. As for whether anyone else is my enemy, you need to let them speak for themselves.

Tscc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tscc said...

Well at least we all now know why there is/was a feud with Whitmire... Little thin skinned are we there Dutton? "Conscientous Stupidity" seriously?.. As opposed to peurile self-justification. You're a politician for the love of Pete, roll with the punches o defensive one. Maybe you might be carrying too many bills, your edged. Oh and by the way, why did the grand-jury reform bill tank?

TriggerMortis said...

Dutton doesn't seem to be a bad guy. That was a Hell of a hit piece that Lisa did on him and he's rightfully upset.

All this bill does is consolidate all of the power into the hands of the district attorney. And that's a dangerous proposition, especially in Harris County since Devon Anderson has already proven she's corrupt and will abuse that power at every opportunity: http://blog.bennettandbennett.com/2011/11/live-by-the-hatchet-die-by-the-hatchet/

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that politicians are getting upset when others share their opinions. Watching you chairman Dutton throughout this session it appears you have discredited many other's opinions during testimony and taken a road pointed out by a small group of advocates leading you down a detour. Mr. Chairman, listen to those individuals who actually work in the areas that you are attempting to govern and reform. I believe if you did there would have not been so much statewide opposition to some of your bills. People who are PAID to bend your ear all day long don't speak for the ones who PAY THEIR OWN DUES working some crazy laws that are passed.
That is MY opinion.

Anonymous said...

Talk about hissy-fit.

Anonymous said...

WOW, it looks like Mr Dutton got his panties in a big wad and picked up his marbles and went home. Of course, none of this is his fault, but really it is. He'd rather pull some grandstanding stunt like that than to work with Whitmire. But then, isn't that what Democrats do when they don't get their way?