Monday, May 22, 2017

Debtors prison legislation pulls off miraculous resurrection, or, How Senfronia Thompson saved Nathan Hecht's debtors-prison bill

What an amazing turnaround on Texas debtors-prison reform legislation, SB 1913, which this afternoon first failed on a 64-77 vote, then prevailed a couple of hours later on a motion to reconsider by a whopping 100-31 margin.

The turnaround was a huge parliamentary feather in the cap of House bill sponsor Senfronia Thompson, who ironically with her victory saved the signature legislation of the session proposed by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and the Texas Judicial Council, at least now that the bail-reform bill is dead.

Congrats to everyone involved in the furious behind the scenes effort to whip votes, and thanks to the House members who changed theirs. Special kudos to our friends at the Texas Fair Defense Project who spearheaded the vote counting and office-by-office advocacy during the tense stretch between the bill's untimely death and its miraculous resurrection.

This legislation is essentially similar to HB 351, discussed on Grits here, with a few extra bells and whistles thrown in. Given how many good reform bills have died this session, pulling this one out of the hat was a major victory.

UPDATE: This bill finally passed on a 75-70 vote. They lost 25 votes on third reading because the author accepted amendments weakening the bill and grassroots Republicans rebelled, preferring new debtors prison protections not be weakened. Judging from the floor debates and the tenor of the vote, the bill would have passed by a greater margin without the amendments.


Anonymous said...

So is HB 2068 DOA?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Not formally, but probably.

Anonymous said...

The bail reform bill, SB 1338, is dead? I thought it was going to get a House vote? Any chance of a resurrection like the debtors prison bill?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Unfortunately, bail reform simply didn't make it onto the last House calendar for senate bills. It wasn't voted down so there's no vote to "reconsider" like there was with SB 1913.

It might have fit as an amendment to the debtors prison bill, which had an extremely broad caption, but that didn't happen and to my knowledge there are no remaining vehicles to amend.

Chris H said...

Now that we've fixed debt prisons - can we repeal DRP program as the House passed it?

Anonymous said...

Do you know what Greg Abbott's position on SB 1913 is? I agree with Chris H, it only makes sense to abolish DRP if Abbott passes SB 1913.