|Chairman Joe Moody|
"Under" won. Only one person spoke against the bill last night, Ector County DA Bobby Bland (not to be confused with the late, great blues singer of the same name, who would certainly have favored the measure).
Consider that: No police chiefs testified against. The Sheriff's Association laid off the bill. So did the Texas Probation Association and all its members. No anti-drug advocates were against it. No neighborhood associations. No mayors or city council members. No county commissioners. No teachers, or doctors, or mental health advocates. No judges. No police unions. None of those groups, or even individuals from their ranks, came out against the bill. Just one lone prosecutor from Odessa spoke against it, with DAs from larger jurisdictions all neutral or in favor. (See MSM coverage from the Express News.)
This remarkable development was not lost on Vice Chairman Todd Hunter, who for these purposes is more importantly the Chairman of the House Calendars Committee. That's the panel which sets bills that have passed out of committee for floor votes by the full House. He intoned in a warning-filled baritone that only one person had testified against the bill that night - Mr. Bland, the Ector DA - and the chairman did not expect to see anyone who had failed to oppose it in committee come out against HB 81 later in the process.
|Chairman Todd Hunter|
In all, this was a positive first step on a long path for HB 81. Last session, the bill got a hearing late and then was heard in a free-for-all alongside a pot-legalization bill that distracted from all the pragmatic arguments for Moody's measure. This time, the bill was heard in the second substantive hearing of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and, barring the unforeseen, should be voted out as early as next Monday.
Hunter's commentary makes me think the bill should receive a relatively warm reception in the Calendars Committee, which means we may FINALLY get to see a House floor vote on reducing marijuana penalties in Texas. Since the 2005 session, when a bill to reduce low-level penalties to a Class C cleared the same committee unanimously under then-Chair Terry Keel, Grits has believed the votes were there on the House floor to pass this bill or something similar, if the leadership would ever let it onto the floor. Maybe this is finally the year. It's about damn time!
In an aside: More than 4,500 Just Liberty supporters have sent emails to their state legislators supporting Moody's bill over the last three months, and we'll be going out again on the topic if and when it's out of committee. Go here to sign up if you're not already on the list.