Saturday, November 17, 2018

Failure to pass First Step Act would be a step backward

The federal First Step Act this week dominated national #cjreform news, with President Donald Trump endorsing the bipartisan #cjreform legislation. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appears ready to renege on his promise to hold a vote during the lame-duck session. Here in Texas, John Cornyn is one of the bill sponsors, while our D.C. allies presently consider junior Senator Ted Cruz as "leans no."

Here's a summary of the bill from Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and here's law prof Mark Osler giving a run down on the bill's contents. Learn what the bill is about, then go here to contact Ted Cruz's office to ask him to support the legislation.

Earlier this year, the Perfect-Is-The-Enemy-Of-The-Good Caucus on the Democratic side were complaining that the legislation did not go far enough. But mercifully, those voices have STFU here in the homestretch. (Thank heavens! Grits was really starting to get annoyed at some folks whom I otherwise respect.) Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who has been the best D reform champion in the US Senate, gave an excellent speech this week explaining why Democrats should hold their nose at voting with the President and support bipartisan justice reforms on the table.

Certainly, this bill doesn't go as far as your correspondent might like. But there's an unspoken benefit to passing the legislation beyond its contents. Getting to a vote on reform legislation in Congress provides a template to work from when pursuing future legislation. Without it, most senators won't have to take a stance, and the politics of the issue remains mushy and difficult to assess.

Texas has received much praise for its 2007 probation reforms, which have been hailed as a national model and a precedent for this federal bill. But what's less well known is that earlier reform votes at the Texas Lege in 2001 and 2003 - related to corroborating testimony of drug informants and mandating probation for the first offense on user-level drug-possession charges - provided the vote template upon which advocates built the '07 coalition. The latter couldn't have happened without the former.

In that sense, the First Step legislation is aptly named. Once it passes, other #cjreform legislation may well be possible. But if it fails, momentum will die and it could be years before the opportunity arises again. Failure to close, when the legislation is SO close to its denouement, would be a harsh disappointment and a bitter pill to swallow.


Anonymous said...

I am really fed up with politics. We the people haven't had representation for many years.

Not one Public Employee follows the Texas Constitution as their Oath of Office requires.

America is supposed to be about FREEDOM. There is NO freedom in America, only slaves to pay taxes on everything and I mean everything!

Property rights were what America was about (called freedom to live your life). We the people have been "educated" to Commercial law and consequently have had our rights removed by uninformed, ignorant of Common Law Public Officials. Example of this is the County Appraisal Districts working for Entities that charge for their services. Yes, it is true that if your property has a mortgage that you generally pay taxes. The reason for this is that YOU signed their Contract agreeing to pay the taxes that the Mortgage Corporation owes.

We have not had a Governor in Office that works for the people and property rights. In fact, the Texas Supreme Court fails to follow the Texas Constitution.

Think about it and do some research!

KK said...

I think I did a Gracie Allen on that one.

Anonymous said...

We the people have the right to empanel a grand jury and criminally prosecute govt officials for violations of their office I suggest you look up Tex Penal Code 39.02 and 39.03 Once govt officials are civilly or criminally prosecuted for violations of the TX Penal Code they may begin to honor the rights of We the PEOPLE. interesting that 18 USC 242 offers no defense of official, judicial, 11th Amendment, or qualified Immunities when civilly prosecuted for crimes of willful violations of the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) see Screws v United States 325 U.S. 91 (1945)

Gadfly said...

You want to address Counterpunch, Grits, which notes that the act as written leaves the door open to new privatization of federal prison services?

(This is above and beyond whether the bill as written, without sentencing reform, should be supported. As written, with new privatizations, and new powers for an AG to personally enact that, nope.)