Saturday, May 25, 2013

Forensic commission gets increased budget, expanded jurisdiction; innocence clinic funding restored

At the Texas Tribune, Brandi Grissom has an update on SB 1238 by Hinojosa expanding the jurisdiction of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and brings the welcome news that the FSC's expanded jurisdiction will also come with a larger budget. (Your correspondent is briefly quoted in the story.) IMO the FSC has exceeded any and all expectations I ever had for them and deserves to be rewarded both with the increased authority and funding.

Grits should also mention that the new budget reinstated funding cut during the 82nd Legislature for innocence clinics at Texas' four public law schools - UT-Austin, Texas Tech, the University of Houston, and Texas Southern - which will see their budgets increased to $100,000 per year. In 2011 the clinics took a 20% cut, which the 2013 budget reinstated. This year, the Senate had recommended (largely thanks to Senators Hinojosa and Whitmire) not only restoring those funds but increasing the clinics' budgets in order to accommodate the volume of intake they receive and their growing participation in larger scale projects like Texas' arson review. Regrettably, though the conference committee working group on criminal-justice had recommended going with the higher Senate figure, House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts axed the extra funding when he and Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams met for a final budget markup. That was a disappointment. Still, the boost back to 2009 levels is a welcome respite for the clinics at a time when more than ever is expected of them.

In the scheme of the Texas budget these are tiny amounts but they're significant for both the FSC and the clinics, expanding their capacity to fulfill their respective, reform-minded missions.

No comments: