Thursday, February 03, 2011

Dozens of new crimes proposed at the Lege: Will LBB man up and assign them fiscal notes?

Our buddy Shannon Edmonds from the Texas District and County Attorneys Association checks in this afternoon via email with this news:
As of the end of business on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 1,702 bills have been filed (or roughly 25% of the eventual total, based upon recent history).  Of those, the Legislature has so far proposed:
  • creating at least 37 new felony crimes
  • creating at least 47 new misdemeanor A/B crimes
  • creating at least 28 new misdemeanor C crimes
  • enhancing the current punishments of at least 36 existing crimes
I say ‘at least’ because some bills propose to create/enhance multiple crimes, therefore, the actual number of crimes affected could be higher.  I only register a bill once for each of the above categories, so (for example) a bill that creates 1 felony and 1 misdemeanor-A crime only counts once for each of those two categories, as does a bill that creates 3 felonies and 2 misdemeanor-A crimes.
Regular readers know Texas already has 2,383 separate felonies on the books, including 11 involving oysters. In an earlier post, I estimated the Over/Under for new felonies this session at 55 (including one new oyster felony), and these data from the prosecutors' association don't incline me at this point to revise that estimate.

The problem is, even if the Legislative Budget Board won't admit it, all these Orwellian-termed "enhancement" bills cost money at a time the state is $20 billion or so short. I'm willing to bet nearly all the bills Shannon identified will have "fiscal notes" claiming their cost is "insignificant," a convenient fiction that enables the tuff-on-crime crowd each session to write checks that the budget writers can pretend they'll never have to cash.

If LBB would just assign honest fiscal notes to these bills - since any rational person knows they'll cost money for state government, county governments or both - they'd almost all die virtually silent deaths, which is what they deserve. Instead everyone lies, pretending the naked emperor is really wearing clothes. Then the corrections budget keeps going up, and everyone wonders, "Why?"

MORE: I emailed back to ask Shannon if any new oyster-related crimes had been proposed. (Last session we had an oyster-related Class A misdemeanor pass, but no new felonies.) He said he'd seen nothing quite that "fun," but mentioned these examples:
  • HB 405 makes improper tire disposal a felony.
  • HB 613 makes improper timber harvesting a felony.
  • HB 870 criminalizes certain deer breeding and trapping acts.
  • HB 882 creates a "Four Loco" crime.
It's always something.

See prior, related Grits posts:


Kirk said...

How long will we continue to criminalize new behaviors? Will it be enough when 5% of the population is incarcerated? 10%? When will enough be enough?

Anonymous said...

Tire disposal, deer breeding or traping a felony. Give me a brake. The Legislature is out of control with this tough on crime bullshit. At time when fiscal responibility is needed more then ever, reforms in public schools, hell has anyone seen the salaries of some state employees not the management but the actual employees who are making 35k -45k after 10-20 yrs in the job. Its no wonder the State can't atract the best and brightest as we slip further and further behind. I just read the other day that the Legislature is considering allowing school districts to cut teacher's pay. A friend of mine is a teacher and she makes 40K a year and is struggeling while the State spends more money on crime and new laws. Who cares about deer breeding.......

Anonymous said...

Who are they going to get to enforce all these new ridiculous laws? On the Texas State Troopers Association forum, they have a link to Sen. Whitmire speech on the house floor were he concerned about placing even more burden upon DPS concerning this new voter ID bill which is likely to pass. Just in case anyone wants to know DPS currently has 387 trooper vacancies which they can't fill due to low salaries when compared to other large agencies, and increased health care premiums on families. The attrition rate of officers is 10 - 15 per month due to being overworked and underpaid. I believe Don Dickson is a regular contributor on this blog I would like to hear his take on this new appearance of tough on crime while there are state police officers who are struggling to support families on 45K a year, without compensation for overtime or the increased work demand.

Anonymous said...

"I believe Don Dickson is a regular contributor on this blog I would like to hear his take on this new appearance of tough on crime while there are state police officers who are struggling to support families on 45K a year, without compensation for overtime or the increased work demand."

Even though they are not state funded, how about city officers and county deputy sheriffs who make far less than state troopers? What about them?

And to add more insult, check out this story from the Longview News Journal.......If they lay off teachers and cut teacher salaries and don't cut salaries across the board for all Texas agencies, if it's possible for a recall election, that's what I'm going to do.......

Texas budget: No pay cuts for top execs

Anonymous said...

@ 11:10pm wrote "Who cares about deer breeding"

The Texas Deer Association, that's who. Check out this article entitled "The Sperm Donor Lobby."
Just another example of vote buying.

The Texas Deer Association more than tripled its political spending in the 2007-2008 election cycle, to $324,000. The growth was made possible by sales of deer sperm, supplied by some of the state’s biggest bucks, to ranchers seeking to buff up their herds. This creative fundraising netted the association more than $200,000.

DEWEY said...

Lets see if I understand this correctly. Texas is having budget shortfalls, wanting to close at least one prison, and the lege is proposing MORE felonies?? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE ???

Anonymous said...

I am shocked and sadden by the current people we have in Autin representing us the people, voters their bosses. They now think they are protecting us by passing even more laws to lock us up. I want a recall vote now!!! I bet you after this session ends the voters would vote new people in. We have elected the biggest dummies into office the world has ever seen. I thought in Texas to receive a college diplomia you had to know both the State of Texas and the U.S. Constitution. I would say now our elect representatives and I use this term losely bought their diplomias on the internet from third world countries. I know none of them pocess common sense thought process.

Amerloc said...

That many felonies involving oysters may soon be irrelevant:

Anonymous said...

I Know our congress in DC is bought and paid for and truly believe they are attempting to spend our country too death trying to protect big businesses profits and our state legislature isn't any better.

Why are they not intelligent enough too know that all that money they are receiving from the lobbyist is worthless if our economy bellies up.

We are going too see it get worse if China convinces the 10 or 12 countries around the world to switch from US dollars as there reserve funds too yuen.

Our next big fight will be between Arabia,China and Japan,,,,over which one gets to repossess America.

Anonymous said...

Walk like an Egyptian.

Anonymous said...

Well for one we lock up more people here in Texas than Egypt and China; however, we also have them beat when it comes to slave labor of those imprisoned and abuse human rights and torture. The only thing that is different is this Country sign International Human Rights Treaties that those countries refused to sign. We have no excuses for torturing our slaves I mean citizens. We are no better here in Texas than China or Egypt.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree that the bill about the tire disposal is frivolous. I read it and it has to do with amounts of 500+ tires (not just one tire sitting around). Near here we had a guy who had some property where he stored 1000's of tires - mom and pop shops would pay him to dispose of them 'properly.' I don't know if he didn't have the financial means or if he chose to not use it, but he one day decided to burn ALL the tires. This was an environmental nightmare - people had to be evacuated from their homes, not to mention the long term impact. This left the question for locals of who will clean this mess up now? Civil litigation costs time and money, and certain processes needed immediate attention. The environmental cleanup supposedly would bankrupt the city and the county. You can imagine the public outcry when the only thing that could happen to the owner of the property was the misdemeanor.
I'm not sure this incident was the impetus for this bill, but I would not be surprised.

Anonymous said...

ANON 2:04
I agree, I can't believe anyone would vote for Leo Berman - he's an idiot.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:22 writes, "This was an environmental nightmare."

Exactly, we're using criminal law to solve social problems like environmental degradation in lieu of meaningful civil recourse or business regulation. Similarly, the oyster crimes are virtually all about protecting business interests in a weak regulatory environment.

When criminal law starts to criminalize actions that we all may agree are disagreeable but have no victims, no mens rea, etc., it starts to get off course from its core mission. More than anything else, these laws represent a lack of imagination.

Anonymous said...

"We are no better here in Texas than China or Egypt."


Anonymous said...

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”
- Plato

Anonymous said...

Rev. Charles in Tulia puts his two bits worth in:

I called Warren Chisum's office (my representative) on Friday. Got answering machine and a call back this morning. I talked about the budget and the irony of creating new crimes and new criminals at a time of budget shortfall. Rep. Chisum's staff person assured me that the Representative would be in agreement with me on this.

Maybe the readers of this blog could follow suit, and call your representative.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Charles again:

About tire disposal, I've heard our county judge complain about the cost of picking up tires that have been thrown in the bar ditches along the rural county roads. I'm sure it's a problem. But making improper disposal a felony would not solve the problem. A low % of the culprits would ever be caught, and, if the history of cattle theft, sales and use of illegal substances, etc., is anything to go by, felonizing the act would have negligible deterrent value.