Innocence Commission bill passes House

The Texas House of Representatives voted yesterday to create the “Tim Cole Exoneration Review Commission,” according to a recent Tribune article. The bill, HB 166, passed the House 115-28. I’ll let you take a guess as to what party those twenty-eight members belong too. Tom Craddick was the only big name that stood out among them.

According to the Tribune article, the gist of the commission is, “Members, appointed by the governor, would investigate wrongful conviction cases, identify why wrongful convictions occur, and examine appeals filed with the state’s courts for evidence of ethical violations by attorneys and judges.” Key point I saw was appointed by the Governor. So I am not so sure how much good any of this would do, but still.

Opponents in the House were mainly worried about the financial costs of the commission. Ironically, a few extra legal appeals followed by exoneration sometimes costs more than simply keeping an inmate in prison. However, don’t underestimate the power of the law & order types. My state senator, Joan Huffman, after making me happy last week, is back to thoroughly disappointing me after coming out in full force against the legislation.

The Tribune articled quoted her saying “I do not believe this would be anything other than a place for people to rant and rave about what they don’t like about the criminal justice system.” Yuck. I suppose this means the bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

Senate votes to increase Tanning Bed age minimum

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Proud of my Senator

In 2009, I wasn’t really following what the State Legislature was doing. However, I remember a few laws that really stuck out. Mainly, that garbage about taking a test at the DPS before receiving a license (I missed the cutoff for being grandfathered into the old system by 2 weeks!). However, one of the other ones I remember was a bill that set a “minimum age” to tanning booths at 16 1/2. At the time I was 15, as were most of my female contemporaries. Upon the law taking effect on September 1st, some of them were utterly horrified to learn they would not be allowed to use a tanning bed for another year. Personally, I agreed with the legislature. Tanning beds are horrible for one’s health, being a prime cause of skin cancer in young women.

Accordingly, I was happy to read an article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times which informed me that the Senate had voted to raise that minimum age to 18. I was even happier to see the legislation was pushed by none other than Joan Huffman, the Senator of my district. The Senate approved the legislation 26-5, with all 12 Democrats joining the Republican leadership and the Tea Party opposing.

Senate passes bill to ban smoking at Capitol

The Trib reports that the State Senate has passed a broad funding bill, pertaining to State Preservation, which includes a particular amendment by Senator Whitmire. Whitmire successfully introduced an amendment to ban smoking on the grounds of the State Capitol.

The measure would make the offense a Class C Misdemeanor, similar to smoking on school grounds. Evidently, the Department of Public Safety would be enforcing the measure. The roll call vote passed the amendment 23 to 6. All six nay votes were Republicans, surprise surprise. Thankfully, my State Senator, Joan Huffman, was not among them. According to the Trib article, Huffman lauded the “conservative approach” of Senator Whitmire.

I was just at the Capitol last weekend, and I didn’t notice too much smoke. However, it was Easter weekend and the legislature wasn’t in session, so I suppose it isn’t really a fair comparison. Austin is a nice city to be outside in, and smokers shouldn’t ruin it for everyone. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that UT bans smoking on campus. I have yet to find a single college in Boston that can say the same. It seems that once it becomes warm enough to go outside here, the nicotine slaves come out in full force. I certainly can empathize with the Senators who discussed their problems with having to walk through clouds of smoke to get to the building.

 

Senatorial short-straw

The State Senate draw lots yesterday, to see who would have to run in 2014. Wendy Davis WILL  be running then  (this is awful, awful, awful news–but more on that later), along with, among others, Joan Huffman, Dan Patrick, Kirk Watson, and John Whitmire. Among the Senators drawn for four-year terms, was the “future officeholder in SD06.”

Patrick, Watson, & Whitmire are so safe in their re-election bids, it is a waste of breath to even talk about. The DeLay gerrymandering has left only 1 swing district in the entire chamber, for all intent and purposes.

Now, Huffman is safe too, but I would like to talk about the 2014 election in SD17 for a little while here. The sorry Harris County Democrats failed to run a SINGLE candidate against her in either 2010 or 2012. Now, unfortunately, the minimum age to run for the Texas Senate is 26, otherwise I would offer up my own candidacy in the event that no other Democrats run. Thus, I will be dedicating a portion of my time in the next year drafting a candidate to compete against Huffman. If we are actually serious about turning Texas blue, someone actually has to sign their name on the damn dotted line to run against the Republicans.

Lastly, we come to Davis. Wendy Davis, arguably, represents the only swing district in the State. She just inched by in 2012, an overall great year for Democrats. Odds are, 2014 will not be as good of a year (people don’t get off their butts and vote in midterm elections), so she faces an uphill climb towards re-election. This also throws the prospect of her running for a Statewide office up in the air. However, it may the best the course of action to go out with a bang, especially if 2014 looks bleak for Democrats as we approach it.