At the capitol in Austin, May of odd-numbered years is crunch time, when literally thousands of bills have now died and the handful that remain are engaged in a desperate race to pass both chambers before the session ends at the end of the month. Just Liberty has supported an at-times dizzying array of justice-reform bills this session and I wanted to give everyone a sense of which bills are still alive at the Texas Lege, which ones are dead (or at least presumed dead), and where we’ve won and lost. Just Liberty is an experiment. We don’t know for sure that hearing from their interested constituents will make a difference, but we figure it’s worth a shot!
With that said, there are still a couple of weeks left, and it’s a generally chaotic and unpredictable time in what’s already proven to be a chaotic and unpredictable session in Austin. Feuds between the House and Senate over unrelated legislation (including the “bathroom bill,” of all things!) have impeded legislation that may need your help in the home stretch to get across the finish line! So when you see our emails over the next couple of weeks, take the action!! This is a critical moment and we’re doing our best to plug you in where grassroots voices can do the most good.
On my blog, Grits for Breakfast, where I’ve written on these topics since 2004, I’ve posted a roundup of where all the bills backed by Just Liberty stand right now. Go there to read this detailed, bill-by-bill update on the most pressing criminal-justice reform challenges facing this great state.
For reasons we’ll discuss more after session ends, this has been a difficult legislative session, not just on our issues but for passing bills in general. That’s in large part thanks to feuding between the House and Senate over culture-war issues. These liliputian battles mostly do not concern those dwindling few of us in the world interested mainly in sound governance rather than sound bites, but the spillover violence from their confrontations have in some cases deeply affected criminal-justice reform bills, as well as common-sense legislation on many other topics.
On the other hand, some good things are happening: Four more prison units are closing. The House voted to prosecute 17-year olds as juveniles. The Senate voted to reform the bail system. Both chambers have passed bills to limit debtors prison practices. A stripped down version of the Sandra Bland Act passed the Senate and could still be strengthened in the House. All these are Just Liberty-supported bills.
Especially around sentencing, asset forfeiture, and police reform the results so far have been disappointing. But if we all pull together in the home stretch (I’m talking to all y’all in key committee members’ districts!) we can make sure some good reform legislation pushes through to the finish line by the end of the month. After all, we don’t get another chance to change state law for another two years.
As we head into these last two weeks, we invite you to Like us on Facebook and/or Follow us on Twitter to become even more active with Just Liberty and help us broaden the conversation about our bipartisan push for reform. While you’re at it, Like or Follow your lawmakers on social media and send them a message about the reforms you support. (Find out who represents you here)
We’re excited that so many of you have taken our actions in support of bipartisan criminal-justice reform. We’re just getting started here at Just Liberty and – win, lose, or draw – we’re going to keep fighting for common-sense, bipartisan criminal-justice reforms like the ones we’ve pursued this session. So stick with us, give us an extra boost when you see our emails over the next few weeks, and thanks so much for joining Just Liberty on this journey!