The Texas Tribune, The Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle each report on this potentially earth-shattering piece of news. Well, perhaps that was hyperbole, but it gives us the clearest picture yet of Rick Perry’s intentions towards the future. The Governor has announced one non-controversial issue, juvenile criminal law, and one extremely controversial issue, abortion, will be added to the call of the Special Session.
The juvenile criminal law issue is quite simple, actually. In 2005, the Legislature abolished parole for capital murderers. This meant that, for all intent and purposes, two penalties remained for all those convicted of capital murder: death and life-without-parole. This represent an interesting situation legal juveniles (under 18) who are tried as adults. These individuals have not been eligible for the death penalty since the 2005 case of Roper v. Simmons. Thus, life-without-parole was left as a de facto mandatory sentence for juveniles convicted as adults of capital murder.
However, the Supreme Court decided last year in Miller v. Alabama that such sentences are unconstitutional. Accordingly, juveniles can no longer be charged with capital murder, as there is no penalty to charge them. The end result of this will probably be a special corollary in the law that allows those charged with the crime below the age of 18 to be given a lighter sentence–like 50 years in prison.
The abortion issue is less simple. The Governor did not mention specific issues pertaining to abortion, but rather gave a blanket statement about “legislation relating to the regulation of abortion procedures, providers, and facilities.” The Morning News discussed the idea of a 20-week ban, whereas the Chronicle also mentioned the artificially high standards for clinics that would cause every abortion clinic outside of Houston, Dallas and Austin to shutter. There is also legislation involving requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
The thing about special session is that you can ram stuff through pretty easily. I would not consider abortion restrictions to be an “emergency issue,” and I know more than one of these proposals is unconstitutional if tested, so I am aggravated looking onto this.
Like I said last night, the advocates of bringing up this stuff in the precious time of a Special Session is like an “overzealous kid.” Perry has never missed an opportunity to act like a child, so why stop now. But most importantly, this provides the clearest signal yet he is running for re-election in 2014.