The Tribune reports that the “Campaign Disclosure bill,” which passed the Senate before they could change their minds, is now heading towards passage in the lower chamber, possibly without amendments. As the article puts it, “SB 346, by state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would force tax-exempt, politically active nonprofits that fall under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code — the part that oversees groups involved in “social welfare” — to disclose their donors.”
This was one of those classic cases of legislators using their consciences to do something right, and then the right-wing-lobbying organization forcing a change of opinion. I’m quite glad that the House has enough spunk to take up this measure even in the face of opposition. About 20 Republicans are needed to pass the current version, if amendments are forced, then the legislation is dead. It is sort of like Obamacare, where the House of Representatives HAD to pass that garbage from the Senate, because the composition of the Senate had changed such that no more reform legislation would be getting out alive.
Next, the Chron & Trib report on the so-called “Michael Morton Bill” passing the House of Representatives. The bill, SB1611, would extend the “open door” policy of file sharing between prosecution and defense across the entire State. From what I understand, the policy of state hitherto was to leave the decision of sharing such evidence was left to the counties (Harris County had such a policy). However, Williamson County, where Michael Morton was wrongly convicted of capital murder, did not have the policy. SB825, a companion bill by John Whitmire, would provide for public sanctions for DAs who intentionally bury evidence, like in the Morton case. It would also clarify the four-year statute of limitations against prosecutors for such acts. Under current law, the four years begin at the date of the alleged crime, whereas SB825 would begin the four years “at the time a wrongfully convicted defendant is released from prison.”
This is a good step taking this State into the civilized world, for lack of a better term. The discrepancy between Harris County and some our neighbors was, well, embarrassing. As the Senate has already passed this legislation unanimously, if the final third reading passes in the House again without objection, and the Governor signs it, it will take effect immediately.
The Chron & Trib also have articles about a recent bill passed by the House to tweak the power of regents. Don’t worry, in a good way. The bill changes the terms for regents, so that every term ends in February of an odd-numbered year–when the legislature is in session. It would also limit the ability of recess-appointed regents to vote in budgetary matters (recess appointments would persist in the case of unexpected vacancies). Finally, the measure would prevent regents from firing a university President (ahem…Bill Powers) without the consent and approval of the chancellor of the school. All of these are good, solid, quality regulations.
The bill, SB15, passed the Senate last month 29-2. Today, the bill passed its Second Reading (only 5 legislators were marked in opposition–all Tea Partiers). No idea on how Perry will view this bill, which is a thinly-veiled attempt to limit his power. If the bill isn’t passed in time, his pocket veto could kill this nearly unanimous legislation.
The Tribune reports on a bill being discussed in a House Panel, seemingly after the deadline, to help update Texas’ penal code vis-a-vis juveniles after the recent Miller v. Alabama decision by the Supreme Court. The decision declared that mandatory sentences of life-without-parole for juveniles (17 and below) were unconstitutional. However, all those tried for capital murder as adults in Texas face mandatory sentencing of either life-without-parole or death. SB187, by Joan Huffman, would allow juveniles still charged as adults to receive a sentence of life, with parole eligibility after forty years. I’m curious to know how this works with the “2/3 of your sentence if you used a gun” rule. What a stupid rule from the Democrat years, but I digress.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously not too long ago, and passed the House Criminal Justice Committee unanimously this evening.