Thursday, March 10, 2005

More good legislation to watch

While folks working on education issues this week must endure a litany of shame, several positive pieces of criminal justice legislation to watch were filed at the Texas Legislature.

Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, yesterday filed HB 2418, which would ban consent searches at
Texas traffic stops. According to a press release by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Rep. Suzanna Hupp, R-Lampassas will be a co-author.

Also yesterday, Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, filed SB 1125, which abolishes any drug task force not funded by the Governor's office in 2004, and mandates that half of all drug task force asset forfeiture funds be deposited in a special county-level fund to pay for drug treatment and drug-abuse prevention. (In the House, Rep. Terry Hodge last month filed HB 1239 that would abolish all Texas drug task forces.)

On Wednesday, Rep. Aaron Peña filed HB 2277 that voids any employment agreement that requires an employee to waive the right to a jury trial as a condition of employment. I've never heard of such an agreement, but no employer should be able to require that you give up your constitutional rights. That's a good bill

I also failed to mention earlier HB 1916, filed by my friend and former campaign client Rep. Ray Allen, R-Grand Prairie, that would restore key citizenship rights to probationers who successfully complete two years on probation (and a newly created "citizenship" class): the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, and the right to serve as an executor of an estate. The idea is to give ex-felons a vehicle for earning re-entry into community life if they prove they can stay out of trouble while on probation.

Ann has compiled a list of all the bills filed related to probation reform, sentence restructuring, and proposals to pay for the improvements, including HB 2098 by Dutton that would lower penalties for the lowest level drug possession cases to a Class A misdemeanor.

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