When I served Harris County as a prosecutor, I saw firsthand the cracks in our justice system. These proposals are designed to protect our most vulnerable residents, reduce crime in our neighborhoods, and make common sense changes to modernize our criminal justice system.
I have filed a number of measures aiming to get smart on crime and punishment. My criminal justice package includes proposals that protect children, increase penalties to deter crime, offer a second chance to nonviolent offenders, and promote more efficient law enforcement.
House Bill 2218 would stop abused children from further injustice.
This bill would increase transparency and accountability for Child Protective Services by creating a neutral ombudsman to investigate complaints and violations. Providing independent oversight will protect abused children from enduring further injustice due to cover ups within the department.
House Bill 2221 would stop criminalizing our schoolchildren for misbehavior.
Schools are increasingly using criminal charges to deal with disruptive kids. Nonviolent behavior is now being handled in court, instead of at the principal’s office. This bill would require school districts to report the number of criminal citations issued and arrests made on school property. Parents and community leaders should be able to see which schools are relying on the criminal justice system for disciplinary intervention, essentially ushering our kids toward incarceration.
House Bill 2227 modernizes the process for issuing warrants.
Currently, sworn statements for warrants have to be physically handed to a judge. This creates issues for law enforcement when the warrant is time sensitive or if the fax machine is simply out of paper. This bill would help modernize and accelerate the warrant process by allowing judges to accept a sworn statement by phone or email.
House Bill 2230 offers nonviolent offenders a second chance.
Imagine if the stick of gum you stole when you were 17 prevented you from getting a job or going to college. Many people plead guilty on Class C misdemeanor violations without fully understanding how it will affect them in the future. This bill would give people a second chance to properly deal with these petty violations allowing them to reach their full potential.
House Bill 2405 promotes smarter enforcement.
Current law allows law enforcement to issue citations instead of arresting offenders for select non-violent misdemeanors. However, while this law has helped some counties save significant amounts of resources in jail costs and lost time, few other agencies even know about it. This bill would encourage counties and agencies to carefully review their policies in order to make the best use of their manpower and the taxpayer’s money.
I have also authored a number of other bills that clean up existing language and close loopholes:
- HB 2219 provides parity between punishment levels for murder and attempted murder; increasing the penalty range of attempted murder from 2 to 20 years to 2 to 40 years.
- HB 2220 provides increased authority to prosecute “cash-for-gold” operations, who often act as fencing operations for stolen property, by enforcing a Class B misdemeanor for operating without a permit.
- HB 2228 clarifies law to ensure the offense of child abandonment is excused in instances when a child, whose life is in danger, is voluntarily delivered to an emergency facility.
- HB 2229 provides parity between offenses as to not provide incentives for a defendant to flee from the scene of a car accident.
- HB 2404 prevents a rapist from further humiliating a victim by making claims to a child that resulted from the rape.
- HB 2579 closes a loophole that allowed detention officers to sexually abuse immigration detainees.
- HB 2841 modernizes Texas law by giving local law enforcement authority to utilize wiretaps when investigating serious crimes like child pornography, internet child predators and drug and human trafficking.
- HB 2842 provides parity between certain offenses and the eligibility for parole to include those convicted of engaging in organized crime.
- HB 2857 creates a more efficient process for property owners, upon their release from prison, to retrieve their unclaimed belongings instead of accumulating in law enforcement storage facilities.
- HB 3259 closes a loophole that allowed forensic interview recordings involving children from leaking to the public.
- HB 3743 allows a prosecutor in a juvenile case to appeal adverse judicial decisions to the same extent possible in adult prosecutions.
Earlier in the session, a fellow colleague and I were having a spirited debate about the state of funding for Public Education. We both agreed that the current data was confusing and that it appeared parties on both sides of the debate may have manipulated the presentation of data to justify their arguments. We both agreed to conduct our own due diligence and research on this issue, and to present our findings. We also agreed that we should use sources that were non-partisan and did not have a legislative agenda.Read More
In the House of Representatives, we have already begun the fight to restore the $5.4 billion cut from public education during the previous Legislature. Students and teachers desperately need this funding restored to achieve the higher standards that we have asked of them. I believe that the faster we do the right thing for Texas schoolchildren, the faster we will see a well-educated workforce that will help maintain Texas’ economic leadership.
While I’m proud to lend my help to the fight for adequate funding, there are still many other things that we can do to help make our education dollars go as far as they can. So I’d like to share with you some of the other ideas that I am sponsoring:Read More