Judicial Election Reform Legislation Passed by Senate
Austin - The Senate today approved of legislation which would leave the question of judicial selection in the hands of Texas voters. Texas currently has an election system for judges in which they generally run on a political party ticket. According to Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan, two-thirds of judges in a recent election ran unopposed and seventeen percent of Texas' current sitting judges have never had an opponent. What Duncan and co-author Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston proposed is a system in which judges are appointed by the governor, approved by the Senate, and are then required to stand in a retention election at the end of their term, essentially forcing them to run against their own record. "Under this system, more judges will face voters than do under the current system," said Duncan.
"What we want we to do here by this legislation is allow the voters to decide whether or not they want to continue with a system that is partisan and that makes Texas look like we have a corrupt judiciary," said Duncan, or they can vote for his proposition which he claims would provide more accountability and a more impartial bench, more opportunities for diversity, and more opportunities for highly qualified lawyers to serve as judges in Texas. Duncan believes that Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 33, along with enabling legislation Senate Bill (SB) 794, would allow for a fair and more impartial way selecting judges.
Additionally, the Senate approved a bill by Senator Teel Bivins targeted at students who are eligible to receive a $1000 Early High School Graduation Scholarship for graduating from an accredited high school within 36 months. SB 1366 would require a student to graduate early with a recommended or advanced diploma in order to qualify for the scholarship.
The Senate also passed a measure authored by El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh designed to protect those who send money abroad. SB 1583 would require currency exchange services to disclose to consumers currency exchange rates and fees or commissions connected to transactions. They would also be required to post the rates and fees at all locations where services are offered, as well as in announcements, advertisements, and solicitations.
The following bills were also passed by the Senate today:
- SB 616, by San Antonio Senator Frank Madla, would add an additional five state agencies to the Drug Demand Reduction Advisory Committee, which develops the direction of the state's efforts to counter illegal drug use. The committee currently consists of five members of the public from different geographic regions of the state and representatives from fifteen different state agencies.
- SB 691, also by Madla, would require the Health and Human Services Commission to review telemedicine programs to integrate them into the entire health care delivery system. Telemedicine is the practice of medicine over distance with the use of telecommunications equipment, such as the telephone.
- SB 782, by Victoria Senator Ken Armbrister, would authorize a county or municipality to contract for collection services in criminal cases and certain cases involving motor vehicles. Counties and cites can currently contract with outside vendors for the collection of fines, fees, restitution and other costs ordered by a court.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 29, 2003, at 11:00 a.m.
Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.