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East Texas lawmakers' bills clear Senate committee

By Glenn Evans
May 16, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Four bills written by Northeast Texas lawmakers were sent Thursday to the full Senate as a committee in that chamber pushed toward the 83rd Legislature's final day May 27.

Those measures included House Bill 1302 by GOP Reps. Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches and Chris Paddie of Marshall that would lock up second-time offenders of sexual violence against children for life. The bill also creates a list of jobs those twice-convicted felons may not hold.

The committee vote was not unanimous, so the bill faces debate in the full Senate.

"We still feel very confident about passage of Justin's Law," Clardy Chief of Staff Kelly Barnes said, referring to the measure by its namesake, Justin Bloxom.

The 12-year-old boy was murdered three years ago in Louisiana, where authorities have accused a twice-convicted sex offender of using a leased taxi to lure the boy to his death.

Cab driving is one of several occupations banned for twice-convicted, violent child sex offenders in the bill. Others are operating a carnival ride, driving limousines or buses and any job requiring entry into a home.

En route to full debate

All House bills had to pass the lower chamber by midnight May 9 or die. East Texans' measures, such as the Clardy/Paddie bill, are now moving through Senate committees en route to full debate in the upper chamber.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee also sent the full chamber a bill from Mineola Republican Rep. Bryan Hughes to record grand jury testimony formally.

Grand juries are empanelled to decide whether a criminal case is worth taking to trial. Now, only the testimony of an accused person is recorded. Hughes' measure expands that requirement to the entire proceeding. The bill won House approval May 8.

"House Bill 3334 will protect the grand jury process by making sure that all testimony is accurately preserved," Hughes said after the bill emerged from the Criminal Justice Committee. "Under current law, some testimony is recorded and some is not. So when questions arise after the fact, we have to rely on the memories of the members of the grand jury, and these can sometimes differ.

"By recording all testimony in the grand jury, we can make sure that everyone involved has accurate information to do the important work of the grand jury."

Hughes' measure also was not sent to the Local and Consent Calendar and faces debate in the full Senate.

Fast track to approval

The Criminal Justice Committee did send bills by Republican Reps. David Simpson of Longview and George Lavender of Texarkana to the fast-track Local and Consent Calendar.

Simpson's bill, which was carried in the Senate by Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, narrows membership on the Upshur County Juvenile Board to the county judge and district judge.

"The commissioners court (in Gilmer) had a lot more involvement than was intended," Simpson said. "(The bill) is restoring it to the bare statute. They wanted it."

Lavender's bill, which also was co-authored by Eltife, simplifies proceedings in counties along a state line when a person under arrest waives his right to fight extradition to another state.



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