Lege Notes

Odds and ends (mostly odds) from the 79th

On May 18, the Texas Senate narrowly passed a bill (SB 548) that would require the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to meet in person, or via telephone or video conference call – although not openly – when making clemency decisions in death row cases. Currently, the board is not required to meet as a body or to deliberate at all when deciding life and death issues, and members regularly enter their votes by phone or fax with no discussion. "No matter your stance on capital punishment, I think all Texans can agree that you shouldn't be able to fax in someone's life," SB 548 author Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said in a press release. The bill made it off the Senate floor with a 15-14 vote, but only after a good deal of "compromise." The original bill would've required the board to meet in person, no exceptions, when considering capital case clemency – a suggestion that, while seemingly reasonable, has failed to gain legislative traction during the last three sessions. On a positive note, the bill will require that a record is made of the board's deliberations, a first step toward making the board's dealings more transparent. At press time, the bill was pending in House Corrections Committee; if it makes it out of the House, the new requirements would not take effect until July 1, 2006.
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