SENATE PASSES BILL TO HELP THE EXONERATED
(AUSTIN) — Those who were wrongfully convicted and sent to prison for crimes they did not commit would get additional rights and protections under a bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The bill, HB 417 by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis, would permit individuals who are cleared of all wrongdoing after a term of imprisonment to buy into health insurance coverage under the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, giving them access to the same health coverage as TDCJ employees. Exonerated former inmates would be eligible for the coverage for as many years as they were wrongfully incarcerated. The bill also requires that attorneys representing the exonerated as they seek compensation from the state to only charge reasonable attorney's fees. This provision was in response to a situation where an attorney representing a man wrongfully convicted charged the man fees equal to half of his total settlement. "HB 417 is comprehensive reform to ensure those wrongfully convicted Texans receive the justice they deserve," said Ellis.
Other bills passed by the Senate Wednesday include:
- HB 3234, by Davis, would reduce the time it takes for former foster children to receive their foster records from the state;
- HB 3051, by Rodriguez, would increase the amount of hours a non-profit child care facility can provide without a license from 12 to 15;
- HB 215, by Ellis, would require law enforcement officials to establish guidelines governing eyewitness identification of suspected criminals.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, May 19 at 8 a.m. to consider the local and uncontested calendar, and will meet in general session Thursday at 11 a.m.