Texans Smart on Crime 2013 Legislative Session Review________________________________
Texans Smart on Crime had 4 very modest goals for the 2013 Texas Legislative Session.
- Mandatory Statewide Implementation of the Cite and Release Policy.
- State sponsored study on the use and effectiveness of Cite and Release.
- Passage of HB 184 by Rep. Harold Dutton which lowers the penalty for possession of 1 ounce of marijuana or less from a Class B to Class C misdemeanor out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
- Obtain a Public Hearing in the Public Health Committee on HB 594 by Elliott Naishtat which allows an affirmative defense from prosecution for the medicinal use of marijuana.
We failed to achieve our # 1 goal but we succeeded on #2 and were successful in taking baby steps forward by achieving the other two.
Our most important achievement came from working with Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston), a former Harris County Prosecutor, to introduce HB 2405, which required Counties to submit information regarding the implementation of Cite and Release in their jurisdictions.
Joint-authored by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin), HB 2405 received a Public Hearing before the County Affairs Committee and received the endorsement of the Texas Association of Business, Texas Public Policy Foundation Center for Effective Justice, ACLU of Texas, Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, William C. Velasquez Institute, and the Texas Fair Defense Project.
Although HB 2405 did not pass out of Committee, it did result in the agreement of County Affairs Chairman Garnett Coleman (D-Houston) that an Interim Charge calling for a study of the effectiveness of the Cite and Release Policy was warranted.
On January 31, 2014 Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) released the 83rd Texas House of Representatives Interim Charges. Included is an Interim Charge from the County Affairs Committee for the State to conduct a study on Cite and Release. The interim Charge reads, “Determine which counties have implemented a cite-and-summons policy, whether the policy has been effective in lessening overcrowding in county jails, and whether those cited by peace officers comply with the policy.”
Progress was also made when the Texas House Public Health Committee chaired by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), for the first time in history, held a hearing on medical marijuana. On May 1, 2013 over 60 people testified or registered in favor of the bill. In addition to Texans Smart on Crime, the Texas Nurse’s Association, Texans for Accountable Government, William C. Velasquez Institute, and Texas NORML testified or registered in favor of the bill.
A public hearing was held April 23, 2013 on HB 184 authored by Harold Dutton (D-Houston) and Lon Burnham (D-Ft. Worth) which sought to recalibrate the penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor.
Although the bill eventually stalled, for the first time in history, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee chaired by Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Corpus Christi) passed an amended HB 184 by a vote of 6-3. The amended bill lowered the penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B to a Class C Misdemeanor, albeit only for those 21 and under. The bill died in the Calendars Committee.