Legislation Addressing Criminal Justice Issues Presented Today
Austin - Several pieces of legislation were presented in the Capitol today addressing criminal justice issues. Attorney Barry Scheck, DNA expert and co-founder of Yeshiva University's Innocence Project, outlined three bills authored by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis at a Capitol press conference held today. Scheck called the measures "just good law enforcement" that Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and liberals could all agree upon.
Senate Bill (SB) 601would give the governor the power to grant multiple reprieves in capital cases. The governor currently has the ability to issue one thirty-day reprieve which may not be enough time for courts to render a decision. SB 1045 would create a nine-member Texas Innocence Commission to investigate wrongful convictions. Following the closure of the Houston Police Department crime laboratory due to contamination of evidence and problems with lab supervisors, Ellis filed SB 1607 to create a commission on forensic science to oversee and conduct quality control of all forensic laboratories in Texas.
At this afternoon's Criminal Justice Committee hearing, El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh laid out Senate Joint Resolution 12. SJR 12 call for a constitutional amendment election this November 4th that would amend the Texas Constitution to empower the governor to call a moratorium on executions, which may be revoked at anytime.
Flower Mound Senator Jane Nelson's "Prompt Pay" bill, SB 418, was unanimously passed by the Senate in today's session following some discussion over the amendments. "This is going to help us reach our goal of making sure the providers are paid promptly," said Nelson, "We heard horror stories all over the state about...physicians, hospitals, other providers...that were not able to pay their bills at the end of the month because the insurance companies weren't paying theirs." SB 418 clearly defines the elements of a clean claim, which must be submitted to an insurer within ninety-five days after the medical care was provided. The insurer will be required to pay a clean claim within forty-five days upon receipt.
Other bills passed in today's Senate session:
- SB 304, sponsored by Fort Worth Senator Kim Brimer, would extend the benefit of negotiated travel service contracts to municipal employees who are required to travel on official business.
- Committee Substitute to Senate Bill (CSSB) 361, sponsored by Addison Senator Florence Shapiro, would provide that the Texas Transportation Commission's orders do not supersede a municipal ordinance, unless it interferes with the ability of the Texas Department of Transportation or the state to receive federal highway funds.
- SB 437, by Houston Senator Jon Lindsay, would codify the election result to include Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in the Service area of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District.
- SB 443, by Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, would allow non-profit organizations which provide activities for children to perform background checks on volunteers.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 26, 2003, at 11:00 a.m.