From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 11, 1999
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

James Byrd, Jr. Act Clears House Hurdle, 6-2

(AUSTIN (03/11/99) -- The James Byrd, Jr. Act is one step closer to becoming law today, after passing the House Judicial Affairs Committee by a vote of 6-2. State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today praised the work of Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) for guiding the legislation through the committee. Senator Ellis has requested a hearing on the James Byrd, Jr. Act before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

"The James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act is on the fast track," said Senator Ellis. "Representative Thompson deserves credit for providing such a momentum boost to this important issue. With today's vote, the House is sending a clear signal that passing the James Byrd, Jr. Act should be one of our top priorities."

Senator Ellis has led the fight against hate crimes in Texas. In 1993, he passed legislation creating the current hate crimes statute, and requiring local and county police departments to report hate crimes statistics to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Since 1993, Senator Ellis has worked to strengthen and clarify the hate crimes law.

"The brutal slaying of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper last year shows more must be done to punish and prevent hate crimes in Texas," said Senator Ellis. "Acts of such brutality do not just happen. They are the product of years of subtler acts of hatred that are often ignored until they explode. If we want to stop this cycle of violence before it begins, we must have a law that sends a clear, sudden signal that crimes of hate will not be tolerated. The James Byrd, Jr. Act will do just that."

The James Byrd, Jr. Act will:

"Prosecutors need a tool that will punish hate, not one that causes confusion," said Ellis. "We need to clarify and strengthen Texas' hate crimes law and we need to do it now."