Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Correction on bill authorship

I'd reported yesterday that then-state representative Jack Stick cosponsored Harold Dutton's HB 715 in 2003 that would have lowered penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor, which is the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

I made an error, which is what I get for relying on my memory. I should have doublechecked. The bill that Stick co-authored with Dutton was HB 2316. I confused them because the two were basically presented as companion bills. HB 2316 would have lowered the penalty for possession of small amounts of cocaine, heroin, meth and other hard drugs from a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor. That bill would have shifted thousands of inmates convicted of drug possession from state jail facilities down to the county lockup.

(Another bill, HB 2668, which was passed and signed by the Governor, mandated probation for first time drug offenders, but the final version did not lower the penalty category, as the original filed language would have.)

Any Grits reader knows, though, that county jails are full. So the only way that HB 2316 could functionally work would have been to pass HB 715, which would have freed up more than enough county jail space. I discussed here how those two proposals work together along with drug courts and expanded treatment programs to stem the rising incarceration tide without making us less safe. The 79th Legislature faces even more intense overincarceration pressures
than did the 78th, so all of these options, of necessity, will be on the table then, too.

I apologize for the error regarding Stick's bill sponsorship.

No comments: