June 11, 2005
Leg. Summary - Support Needed
League of United Latin American Citizens
79th Legislative Session Summary
We ask that each and every one of you examine this list and call (800) 252-9600 or (512) 463-2000 also, fax letters to Governor Perry (fax: 512-463-1849) urging him to do the right thing. Your involvement could swing the balance toward Texas becoming a more just and hospitable place for families and communities of color. Don't waste a minute!
BILLS WE SUPPORT
· HB 2193: It costs about $2 per day to supervise non-violent offenders on probation, compared to $40 per day to incarcerate them. Our prisons are full, and Texas can't afford to continue its "lock-em up" policies. HB 2193 passed the House and Senate with unprecedented bipartisan support. If passed, it will provide significant improvements for community-based alternatives to imprisonment like the early discharge incentive, more effective lengths of probation, more flexible probation conditions, progressive sanction programs, and more effective deferred adjudication.
· SB 1195: In Texas, a series of court decisions have weakened drivers' Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, especially at traffic stops. SB 1195 would require Texas peace officers to obtain written consent before searching vehicles at traffic stops. Aside from being unjustified and intrusive, consent searches are seldom fruitful. A preliminary review of contraband findings as a result of consent searches (derived from Texas racial profiling data) indicates that little contraband is being found. This suggests that consent searches are an ineffective and inefficient use of law enforcement resources.
· HB 3152: Current law provides that a person accused of a crime is entitled to be represented by an attorney. A defendant may waive the right to counsel, but that waiver is valid only if it is knowingly and voluntarily made. Although current law recognizes the right to counsel, it does not adequately or expressly prohibit some long-standing practices utilized in Texas that produce invalid waivers of counsel. It does not forbid prosecutorial and judicial practices that tend to produce invalid waivers and that jeopardize the finality of criminal convictions obtained subject to such waivers. H.B. 3152 will ensure that waivers of the right to counsel are validly obtained.
· HB1239: Funding from the federal Byrne Grant has been used to fund unscrupulous and unethical drug task forces that have caused internationally renowned scandals in places like Tulia and Hearne, Texas as well as many other towns throughout the Lone Star State. Instead of using this money to put more people in jail each year, the grant funds can be better spent on productive programs that STOP crime such as programs to combat domestic violence and other violent crimes, rehabilitation programs and drug courts.
HB 1239 would disallow funding from the Byrne grant program for drug task forces--which would save Texas taxpayers millions this biennium and millions in the next biennium. It would also free up over $22 million in Byrne Grant money for more productive social uses.
BILLS WE OPPOSSE
· HB 2 and HB 3 both failed but there could be a special session on this issue: There is still time to weigh in on this highest-profile issue facing the legislature. From the beginning, we have argued that the approach taken to school finance by the 79th Legislature has failed on a number of fronts: by not genuinely increasing funding, by taking equity out of the system, by exposing school children to a new battery of discriminatory standardized tests, by eliminating funding weights for bilingual and compensatory education programs, by not setting aside a dedicated funding source for facilities, and by shifting the burden of paying for education to the poorest Texans through the use of regressive sales taxes. Please remind Gov. Perry that the Texas Constitution requires that any system of school funding be equitable, stable, and flexible enough to adapt to changing needs. House Bills 2 and 3 fail to live up to that standard.
· SB 6: While lauded as one of the "successes" of the legislative session, SB 6, which endeavors to reform CPRS (Child Protective and Regulatory Services), does not include language that deals specifically with the disturbing trend of minority children being removed from their homes at substantially greater rate than white children, nor with the problem of psychotropic drugs being heavily over-prescribed. This is a major piece of legislation that will have far-reaching effects, and in its current form does not contain any strong anti-discrimination language.
League of United Latin American Citizens
Brent A. Wilkes
(Letter also signed by previous national president, current national officers, as well as current state directors and officers.)