Dead in the Water: The Bills that Didn’t Make It

Governor Greg Abbott vetoed several bills from dog protection to criminal justice. We’re taking a look at the criminal justice bills that didn’t get final approval.

HB 686

House Bill 686, if passed, would have allowed for earlier patrol for inmates who were younger than 18 when the crime was committed.

Essentially, parole boards would reconsider parole based on two primary qualifiers:

  • Age
  • Mental state

Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, and Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan’s criminal bill was dubbed “Smarter Justice, Safer Texas.” Their goal in proposing the bipartisan bill was to bridge the gap between parties and give inmates the chance for freedom instead of staying behind bars.

Gov. Abbot vetoed the bill citing the complex nature and confusing execution as the reasons for his decision. However, many argue that HB 686 would have ended controversial policing and prosecuting that Texas has become known for in the last four decades.

SB 237

Gov. Abbott also vetoed Senate Bill 237 which proposed a reduction in penalties for trespassing. Lawmakers proposed a cite and release approach to trespassers meaning anyone caught trespassing would be cited for the crime and released instead of arrested.

The governor pointed out that lighter penalties for trespassing would put home and business owners in a tough position in the fight against interlopers. He says that many Texas property owners depend on arrests to curb homeless people from lingering on their property.

Additionally, Abbot says that limiting trespassing arrests would be in opposition to arrests in border communities. Gov. Abbott is very clear about his vision for immigration and border patrol. He along with many others view those coming across the border as a threat to the community and SB 237 would only help them continue to break the law.

Whether the governor’s concerns are founded or not, SB 237 would have allowed many people to avoid jail time which in turn keeps incarceration rates down. While these specific bills are dead in the water, lawmakers will continue to push for criminal justice changes.

How Powerful is a Veto?

If you remember your middle school civics class, you’re probably aware of the long circuitous route a bill must travel before it becomes a law. Once the bill is drafted, the sponsor presents the bill to the House or Senate and is then assigned to a committee. The committee’s job is to evaluate the bill and determine whether the bill will move forward. If they choose to move forward, the committee will present the bill for approval and a vote.

It’s only after the vote that the governor reviews the bill. The governor is responsible for signing the bill into law. If they decide to veto it, the bill returns to the house with the governor’s explanation. To overturn a veto, the house must reach a two-thirds majority vote.

A veto from the governor can stop a bill in its tracks, but that doesn’t mean similar proposals can’t go before the house in the future.

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