Sunset: End Texas Youth Commission
Legislative committee votes narrowly to combine juvenile probation and prison systems
By Richard Whittaker,
1:00AM, Thu. Jan. 15, 2009
The Texas Youth Commission has inched closer to being dissolved tonight after the joint House-Senate-appointee Sunset Advisory Commission voted 6-5 to recommend that the legislature dissolve the agency and merge it with the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission to become the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. The plan will now move into the legislative process for further discussion.
The proposal to replace the scandal-racked TYC was originally made by the Sunset staff, but in the meeting it was Commission Chair Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, who made the argument to merge the two and end the old standing problems of poor communication between the two agencies that had failed children for so long. He explained, "To effectively serve the youth of program [ ] the state programs need to fit together seamlessly."
Three of the 'nay' votes came from the House (Reps. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio; Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; and Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving) and two from Senate (Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-Mission.)
This may sound bad for Isset (who told Vice-Chair Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, in the commission's last meeting that a 7-5 vote on the future of the Texas Department of Transportation was too close to guarantee smooth progress); even worse, he depended on the two appointees to get the recommendation passed, so it was really four legislators against five. But even the 'nay' votes were not opposed to the idea of making the switch some time in the future if the agencies were in trouble: just not now. With powerful allies like Sen John Whitmire, D-Houston, backing the plan, this vote is an uncertain predictor of where the votes may lie when this issue finally gets to the floor.
What may have some folks pondering is that, since Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was too busy aggravating Democrats over the 2/3rd's rule, former senator Kim Brimer's seat was left vacant. If he'd still been around, or if a replacement had been named in a timely fashion, then this could have been 6-6 or 7-5.