Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 43: This is the Dead Bill, This is the Cactus Bill

Today is the 43rd day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. The House will reconvene at 10 am, the Senate at 11.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence meets today at 10:30, but will not be considering either HB 604 (repeal of the offense of homosexual conduct) or HB 172 (study of the effectiveness of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act). This is how bills die slow deaths - if hearings are delayed (either because the chair does not wish to schedule a hearing or the bills sponsor is not prepared for a hearing at the time or, simply, that all concerned place higher priority on other legislation) they can get so far behind in the process that they can never catch up. That's what happened to last sessions version of the hate crimes study bill, it passed committee, but did so late in the game and never made it to the House floor.

In 77 days all bills will be required to have had their "second reading" on the House floor (this is the first opportunity for the entire House to discuss and vote on a bill), if that hasn't happened they die. Between now and then both of these bills will have to have a public hearing, been voted on by committee, the committee report submitted to calendars (the calendars committees set the schedule for the House floor) and then put on a schedule for second reading. The clock is ticking.

Please call the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and encourage Chairman Pete Gallego to set these two bills for public hearing at the committee's meeting next week. The number is (512)463-0768.

I'll be sitting on the panel tonight for "Issues & Answers - Bullying" cosponsored by the Harris County Democratic Party and Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, joining me will be Houston Independent School District Trustee Juliet Stipeche and, via skype, State Representative Jessica Farrar. The panel starts at 6:30 pm at the HCDP Headquarters at 1445 North Loop West, Suite 110 in Houston.

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