Sunday, April 03, 2005

Who's in the 'lock-em-up league' in the Texas House?

Texas faces an overincarceration crisis, but the state House of Representatives can't bring itself to stop it's knee-jerk, lock-em-up habits.

I've written how budget pressures facing the Texas Legislature have run full up against the traditional biennial pastime of increasing criminal prison sentences as a way to grandstand for constituents. There are several so-called penalty "enhancements" (read prison sentence increases) moving through the process, but the only one to pass either chamber so far is HB 151 by Truitt, which would make burglary of a vehicle Texas' 1,942nd felony and add around 700 new prisoners to Texas' system by the time the 80th Legislature meets in 2007. The bill would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars because Texas doesn't have space to house the new inmates, but the Legislative Budget Board and the MSM keep propagating the myth that the bill costs just $9 million.

I'd mentioned that HB 151 passed, but didn't post details. Representatives Harold Dutton, D-Houston, and Terri Hodge, D-Dallas, both proposed amendments to the bill that would have done more to accomplish Rep. Truitt's stated aim: targeting repeat offenders. She would not accept them, though. Dutton's amendment was similar to a bill filed by Rep. Pe
ña that would have increased the penalty to a felony on the third offense, Hodge's would have increased the penalty on the second. Those voting to table Hodge's amendment, arguably, represent the core, working majority in the Texas House that supports increasing prison sentences regardless of how much it costs. She lost that motion to table by a margin of 82-59. In the end, though, 96 Texas House members voted for HB 151, becoming charter members of what Grits may have to start calling the "lock-em-up league":
Alonzo(D); Anchia(D); Bailey(D); Baxter(R); Berman(R); Blake(R); Bohac(R); Bonnen(R); Branch(R); Brown, Betty(R); Brown, Fred(R); Callegari(R); Campbell(R); Casteel(R); Chisum(R); Cook, Byron(R); Cook, Robby(D); Corte(R); Crabb(R); Crownover(R); Davis, John(R); Dawson(R); Delisi(R); Denny(R); Driver(R); Eiland(D); Eissler(R); Elkins(R); Escobar(D); Farabee(D); Flynn(R); Frost(D); Gattis(R); Geren(R); Goodman(R); Goolsby(R); Griggs(R); Hamilton(R); Hamric(R); Hardcastle(R); Harper-Brown(R); Hartnett(R); Hegar(R); Hilderbran(R); Hill(R); Hope(R); Hopson(D); Howard(R); Hughes(R); Hunter(R); Hupp(R); Jackson, Jim(R); Keel(R); Keffer, Bill(R); Keffer, Jim(R); King, Phil(R); Kolkhorst(R); Krusee(R); Kuempel(R); Laney(D); Laubenberg(R); Martinez Fischer(D); McClendon(D); McReynolds(D); Merritt(R); Miller(R); Morrison(R); Mowery(R); Nixon(R); Orr(R); Otto(R); Paxton(R); Pena(D); Phillips(R); Pickett(D); Pitts(R); Raymond(D); Reyna(R); Riddle(R); Ritter(D); Rose(D); Seaman(R); Smith, Todd(R); Smith, Wayne(R); Smithee(R); Solomons(R); Straus(R); Swinford(R); Talton(R); Taylor(R); Truitt(R); Van Arsdale(R); Vo(D); Wong(R); Woolley(R); Zedler(R)
Rep. Pat Haggerty, R-El Paso, made an impassioned plea that the bill wouldn't do anything to help the problem, would cost more than LBB's fiscal note claimed, and was fiscally irresponsible. He asked members to vote down the bill entirely. Forty two representatives joined him. It's worth saying thank you to Haggerty, Hodge, Dutton, and to those who stood up against the "tough on crime" rhetoric on behalf of smaller government and fiscal sanity. The 43 who voted against the final bill were:
Allen, Ray(R); Burnam(D); Castro(D); Chavez(D); Coleman(D); Davis, Yvonne(D); Deshotel(D); Dukes(D); Dunnam(D); Dutton(D); Edwards(D); Farrar(D); Gallego(D); Gonzales(D); Grusendorf(R); Guillen(D); Haggerty(R); Herrero(D); Hochberg(D); Hodge(D); Homer(D); Isett(R); Jones, Delwin(R); Jones, Jesse(D); King, Tracy(D); Leibowitz(D); Luna(D); Madden(R); Martinez(D); Moreno, Joe(D); Moreno, Paul(D); Naishtat(D); Noriega(D); Oliveira(D); Olivo(D); Rodriguez(D); Solis(D); Strama(D); Thompson(D); Turner(D); Uresti(D); Veasey(D); Villarreal(D)
Several members, like Carl Issett and Delwin Jones (both R-Lubbock), Mark Homer (D-Paris) and Kent Grusendorf (R-Arlington) switched their votes after Haggery's impassioned plea. Good for them. Anyway, supposedly, cooler heads in the Senate may stop HB 151 and other penalty increases from happening this time around. But that doesn't excuse the lock-em-up league's irresponsibly draconian votes. Check out how your representative voted; if you don't know who is your state rep, check by typing in your address here.

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