June 27, 2005
Perry's vetoes: Worse than you thought
Governor Perry's veto of HB2193 was bad enough, but he didn't stop there.
As of last week, Texas prisons are officially full and must contract to rent space for all new prisoners from county jails. Unbelievably, though, it turns out Governor Perry line-item vetoed funding in the budget for those beds. Since he also vetoed HB 2193 by House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden strengthening Texas' probation system (which would have partially stemmed the overincarceration crisis), as of right now Texas officially has more prisoners than the state can afford to incarcerate, with the problem getting worse every day into the foreseeable future.
Way to be tough on crime, Governor! Best of all, as Grits
notes elsewhere, this shortsighted decision will hit Harris County
harder than most.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 27, 2005 to That's our Lege
Kuff, for the record, you and Mr. Grits are completely off-base concerning Perry's veto of HB 2193 and funding for the "new county jail beds":
1) The bill HB 2193 by Madden, Whitmire, Turner et all, would have *reduced* maximum probation periods for *kidnapping*, *injury to a child*, *repeated spousal abuse*, *intoxication assault* and*habitual felony drunk driving* from ten years to only *five* years. It also reduced the probation period for anyone convicted of assaulting a peace officer and for taking away a weapon from a peace officer.
Now what the heck is *"non-violent"* about the above crimes, and where does Grits get off with claiming with a straight face that Perry's veto harmed efforts to reduce the number of "non-violent" criminals behind bars for tech revoc on probation?
Do you think Grits would care to put it up to a statewide referendum as to whether the people of Texas consider the above-listed offenses as violent crimes, and whether we would support reducing maximum probation periods for them? Would you care to guess by what margin they would back Perry on this veto?
The governor attempted to have Madden, Turner and Whitmire remove those particular provisions and he would have signed it, but they wouldn't budge.
2)The line item veto of the new county beds means absloutely nothing:
A) TDJC had already received $15.9 in emergency appropriations for this for 2005, and will not spend it all in 2005 even at capacity!
B)The projected need for contracted beds over the next two years *did not support* the $19.8 million increase proposed by Madden, Turner, Whitemire, etal
C) The 2007 appropriation was already twice the appropriation for 2006.
d) TDJC has the authority to move funds between fiscal years.
e) The federal funds are also still available and unaffected by the veto.
f) In other words, this is a non-issue.
I am so angry about this I can not yet express my thoughts cogently. We have to tie this to high taxes, and we need quality Democrats who can run for DA in Harris, Tarrant and Williamson Counties, as these DA's took the lead in getting Perry to make the veto.
Texas taxpayers simply cannot afford to incerate everyone foranything forever.
Mr. Tyler prefers to ignore the big issues while spreading misinformation and and focusing on whether all or merely the vast, vast majority of affected probationers committed non-violent offenses.
The argument over whether stronger probation would have applied to violent offenders is a red herring to me. The truth is, it would be better if shorter, stronger probation applied to all felons. Right now, the probation system isn't supervising most of them at all. The system has completely lost track of more than 77,000 absconders with no resources to go look for them. Texas has the longest probation terms in the country, going against pretty well-established best practices. All research on the subject shows that, if probationers re-offend, they almost always do so in the first two the three years, which is when probation is most needed. Do you think most Texans prefer offenders receive stronger supervision for five years, or virtually no supervision for ten?
Meanwhile, Tyler repeats the Governor's claim that he approached the bill authors with his proposed changes, but here's what Rep. Jerry Madden (R-Garland) said in his letter to the Governor:
"I would like to bring to your attention the fact that the Governor's office representative that was responsible for covering the House Committee on Corrections never attended a public or formal hearing. Moreover, she never offered input or recommendations to the committee on any piece of legislation, including the probation bill which you have now decided to veto.
"I offer you this information because among the objections that you raise in your public
proclamation you state, "attempts to improve this legislation that would have provided greater
public safety were rebuffed, ensuring a flawed piece of legislation that would have made needed
improvements to our probation system". I find it interesting that you clearly state that
improvements to our probation system are needed (which is of course why this bill was drafted
in the first place), and yet the author of this bill was never given any amendment or
recommendation by the Governor's office concerning the probation bill."
That doesn't sound like Mr. Tyler has his facts straight.
To the nonviolent question, for starters, first and second degree felonies were removed from the bill, so the most serious crimes aren't affected. By far, most people convicted of third degree and state jail felonies committed drug crimes or other nonviolent offenses. As for the rest, context is everything, isn't it? For example, what prosecutor can only get probation for "assaulting a police officer"? Only those prosecuting cases where the "assault" was essentially trivial. Remember, we're talking about cases that merited probation in Texas' tough on crime environment -- a kidnapping involving a parent taking their own child in violation of a custody order, for example, is different from a case involving a ransom demand, and more likely to be the type that would get probation. Still, Mr. Tyler's definitional hairsplitting is technically, if seldom practically correct. I should have more accuratly said "mostly" nonviolent offenders.
In any event, the referendum, would be on whether Texas is satisfied with a probation system that doesn't know where to find 77,000 felons, including those who committed crimes much graver than Mr. Tyler demagogues about. I'd be perfectly comfortable that debate. In fact, at the Lege, we just had it.
Finally, I'm not sure why Mr. Tyler assumes leftover emergency appropriations will last the state two more full years. Without that assumption, his budget arguments fall apart. Personally, I'd take the word of the chairman of the House Corrections Committee on this one. When Jerry Madden tells the Governor from his same party that he just vetoed needed money for much-needed beds, it seems wise to listen to him.