Friday, May 25, 2007

Watered down parole measure amended to bill in Senate

In an effort to salvage some of the legislation that died waiting for a floor vote in the Texas House, the Texas Observer blog lets us know that Sen. John Whitmire got his SB 838 (discussed here on Grits) amended to another bill. The legislation would reduce revocations to prison for technical parole violators, but Bryan Sen. Steve Ogden led an 11th-hour charge to kill it. A quick-turnaround negotiating session resulted in the language being scaled back to include only first-time parole violators.

This bill already passed the Senate unanimously once, so it's a bit of a cheap shot for Sen. Ogden to come back and try to shoot down this long-debated, intensively researched proposal for which he himself previously voted. The Observer speculated that Ogden is worried about keeping demand high enough to justify three new prison units he wants to build, but my guess is he was carrying water for the prosecutors' association.

Since I thought SB 838 was dead - it was one of the bills the House didn't get to on Tuesday, their last day to consider legislation from the Senate - even half a loaf on this is better than I'd feared. But I can understand Whitmire's frustration at his colleauge's last-minute flip flop: Doing his best John Kerry impersonation, Sen. Ogden supported SB 838, after all, before he was against it.

Incidentally, the legislation Whitmire amended was HB 3200 (discussed by Grits here), which is a key component restructuring payments to local probation departments to give incentives for helping probationers succeed. It's good to see Sen. Whitmire working hard down to the wire to get his public safety package through.

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