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Backup bill for Tulia 13 passes

There are now two bills to free the remaining 13 defendants of the Tulia drug bust who are stil in prison, thanks to an amendment on another bill that just passed the House.

A special prosecutor has said the cases would be dismissed if new trials were ordered. But it could take the appellate court as long as two years to complete its review of the cases, some legislators and lawyers believe.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, responded by filing Senate Bill 1948, which would allow the bonds to be set. That bill was unanimously approved by the Senate on May 14 and is set for routine approval Wednesday on the House’s last “local and consent” calendar of the session. Such special handling is reserved for noncontroversial legislation.

Not wanting to take any chances, however, Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, tacked identical language onto another criminal justice bill by Whitmire that won House approval on Sunday.

The only difference between the two, Keel said, is that Senate Bill 1948, Whitmire’s original Tulia bill, could go into effect immediately once the governor signs it. The backup measure, Senate Bill 826, wouldn’t go into effect until Sept. 1.

Keel said he still expects to win House approval of the original bill but wanted some insurance since the session ends Monday.

“I know of no opposition to the bill,” Keel said.

Hopefully, Whitmire’s SB 1948 will pass the House without any problems, but I suppose it never hurts to have a backup plan.

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