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April 11, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Senate Passes Bill Prohibiting
Profiting From Crime Memorabilia

AUSTIN - The Senate passed a bill today that would prevent criminals from making a profit from memorabilia associated with their crimes.

Current state law requires that criminals forfeit any profit derived from the sale of their life story, but profits from the sale of items associated with the crime are not covered by existing law.

Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis, the author of the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 795, said the bill would close that loophole.

"Allowing criminals to profit from their crime adds insult to injustice," Ellis said. "Under this bill, if you do the crime, you do the time -- and you don't see a dime."

CSSB 795 would create an involuntary trust of the profits derived from the sale of crime memorabilia.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted to send the bill to the full Senate on March 7, after hearing emotional testimony from family members of crime victims. Among the witnesses who testified in support of the bill during the hearing was a woman whose 15-month-old daughter was killed by a nurse. The woman testified she later found letters the nurse had written from prison offered for sale on an Internet site.

Ellis said the sale of crime memorabilia has become more frequent on the Internet, creating a larger market and higher profits for the items.

"I want to see the killers of James Byrd, Jr., in Huntsville, not on eBay," Ellis said. "It is a pretty sad commentary on our society that we even need to pass this law, but we do. This legislation will ensure criminals do not profit from their crimes and victims are not forgotten."

Byrd was an African-American who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in a 1998 racially motivated killing in East Texas.

The Senate voted today to approve a number of other bills, including CSSB 1238, a measure authored by Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief that would create a voluntary registry of child-care providers. The registry would include information such as criminal and educational history and would be available to the public through the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.

The Senate also voted to approve House Bill 831. The bill would allow the cancellation of an election to fill a vacancy in the Legislature when only one candidate runs and has no opposition. The bill was authored by Plano Rep. Jerry Madden and sponsored in the Senate by Florence Shapiro of Plano.

In other news, the House of Representatives voted to approve CSSB 1 with several amendments. CSSB 1 is the General Appropriations Bill for the 2002-2003 biennium. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate on March 28. The version approved by the Senate contained a $111.7 billion budget, while the House approved a budget of $109.7 billion. The bill will go to a conference committee to work out the differences.

The Senate Redistricting Committee held a hearing today to consider two bills and hear invited testimony on state demographics and, although the redistricting process is still under way, the status of lawsuits that have been filed challenging new district lines. Senate Redistricting Committee Chair Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio distributed working Senate district maps based on recommendations made by members of the Senate.

The Senate stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Tuesday.

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