Sunday, June 19, 2005

Terrible news: Perry vetoes stronger probation, documented consent to search at traffic stops, and enforcing the right to counsel

Damn it. I left town for a few days for a training seminar in D.C., only to return to find criminal justice reformers' agenda for 2005 lying in ruins in the wake of devastating vetoes by Governor Goodhair, Rick Perry. According to a June 18 press release from the Texas Criminal Justice Reform Coalition:

The following bills were vetoed:

SB 1195—protected criminal cases made after police conduct consent searches at traffic stops by mandating that the driver’s consent be documented either in writing or on tape. [Author, Hinojosa; companion by Hupp, Dutton]

“This bill merely required police to inform drivers of their fourth amendment rights, so that when they consent to a search, the search is valid,” said Harrell. “The legislature reviewed this issue thoroughly, with information from many jurisdictions. There is no lack of information, but the Governor was not participating in the legislature’s consideration of this issue.”

HB 3152—prohibited prosecutors and judges from pressuring unrepresented defendants into proceeding without counsel, reducing the risk that warranted convictions might be overturned because they were illegally obtained. This bill was unopposed in both houses. [Escobar, Hodge, Ellis]

“The Governor says this bill would jeopardize convictions, but the fact is that current practices create the risk that guilty people will go free,” said Dominic Gonzales, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. “All this bill required was an informed waiver of your constitutional right to counsel. By vetoing this bill, the Governor rejected the most reasonable solution to a major problem that creates uncertainty in the criminal justice system.”

HB 2193—holds accountable those offenders who deserve a more stringent approach to corrections while providing an efficient and less expensive way of handling those offenders who are not violent and hold the most promise of leading productive lives and taking responsibility for their families. [by Madden, Turner, Allen, Haggerty, McReynolds, Whitmire] (See Pery's official veto statement)

Texas’ probation system is broken. Today 77,500 probation violators run free but our state has limited resources to go after them--that is not acceptable,” said Correa. “This bill would have fixed that.”

HB 1896—saves taxpayer money and creates incentive for personal responsibility, encouraging offenders to abide by the requirements of their supervision. [by Hodge, joint authors Madden, Allen, Haggerty; sponsored by Whitmire]

What a disgrace! Here's a Governor who acknowledges the criminal justice system is broken, but rather than sign bills to fix some of the most obvious problems, he'd rather veto them all and appoint a meaningless, do-nothing blue ribbon commission.

I feel especially bad because the only reason these good bills made it this far was an immense amount of work put into them by, at the end of the day, hundreds of people, with thousands more supporters coming to Austin for lobby days or contacting their legislators and the Governor.
“Together the four major criminal justice bills vetoed today would have improved the integrity of the criminal justice system from the point of arrest through sentencing, ensuring that good cases hold up in court and offenders have incentives to successfully move out of the system,” said Vickie Randall, Executive Director of the Ministry Advisory Council. “The hundreds of ministers who came to the capitol in support of these bills will feel blatantly disregarded.”
I know the feeling. I hope those of you who worked hard supporting these bills don't feel your efforts were in vain. Speaking for myself, right now, it's hard not to feel bitterly disappointed.

And angry. Mostly I'm angry. Vetoing the probation bill (HB 2193) is just short-sighted and mean-spirited. Where are you going to get the money to build more prisons, Mr. Perry? Will you add a new tax to pay for them to the items eligible for consideration in the special session you just called? Texas Monthly, in naming Houston state Sen. John Whitmire to it's Ten Best legislators for 2005, said, "No lawmaker saved Texas taxpayers more money this session." Doesn't that mean, then, that Perry should be held accountable when his veto of HB 2193 starts to soak the taxpayers? I wonder why he feels the need to pander to this guy?

This is a flip flop. Perry told legislative budget writers he supported the idea earlier this year.

Similarly, vetoing SB 1195, which would have required police to obtain written or recorded consent to search at traffic stops, can only be viewed as either gross, thoughtless pandering to special interests, or, if one actually believes the veto expresses an ideological position rather than a political one, a yes-vote from Governor Goodhair for outright totalitarianism on the roadways.

Testimony in committee established that a 2001 Supreme Court decision
ensures Texas drivers don't really have the ability to deny consent when police ask to search. Perry twice vetoed legislation passed to fix the problem. This time, the Governor called for the Legislature to study the issue in his veto message, claiming he didn't have enough information. Since he didn't ask bill-backers for any, and vetoed the thing two days before the deadline, it really doesn't seem like he was looking for more info, does it?

These are cynical decisions -- choosing bad public policy in order to pander to the right wing in next spring's Republican primary. They're probably even wrong-headed politically: Religious groups around the state supported stronger probation, and the National Rifle Association backed SB 1195.

A little good news: the Governor signed HB 823 by Keel creating a presumption a person is legally "traveling" with a gun in their vehicle unless they're barred from doing so for a reason, Perry is already claiming credit for it on his campaign website. And HB 1239 by Hodge, which forces Byrne-grant funded drug task forces to comply with DPS rules, also became law.

More later on what all this means, but I wanted to let folks know what happened. What a shameful performance.


Catonya said...

only have a minute, my grandpa had a heart attack friday, surgery this morning.

wanted to say when i saw this i literally sat down and cried. truly a sad sad day for texas and her citizens.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

I know, Cat, I shed a couple of tears, too! Sooooo many folks worked hard on this, it's just heartbreaking.

I hope your Grandpa pulls through. Good luck today.

BTW, as some on our lege team pointed out, this spring wasn't a total loss. A couple of small good things passed, and a lot of bad bills got killed that usually would have sailed through without this movement. Still hugely disappointing, though.

I'll keep a good thought for your family today, Cat.

moi said...

That is just sad. I would be extremely upset were I practising in TX. I'm amazed that the "bullying" bill was even needed (not amazed that it was vetoed).

Hopefully the efforts didn't go to waste and perhaps this can be taken up again next year.

What a troll.

123txpublicdefender123 said...

This is terrible. I should have known Governor GoodHair would screw us. And all because--as one of my local judges put it--some Williamson County DA who nobody but Perry thinks knows anything opposed them. I'm not familiar with the veto process enough to know if this is a stupid question: Any possibility of a legislative override?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Since he vetoed it after Sine Die, the Lege isn't in session to override. I'm afraid they're all dead letters. Uugh.

Anonymous said...

"To proctet and serve" now has a whole new meaning. And it will get worse, much worse.

Gadfly said...

Scott, IMO, this is why we need annual sessions of the legislature. Between good laws getting killed for two years, bad laws getting rushed to the floor, the general melee at the end of a session, and now, the Madcap Monarch of Midland's escapades, a lot of evils could be solved with annual sessions.

Texas would be in the world's top-20 economies, and it's run like a banana republic.

Anonymous said...

What a joke, There goes the crime rate again. No consequences. Must we forget about two border patrol officers sitting in jail while trying to protect us. Gov. Perry has let us all down...I say.."Grab a rope".

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