Senate Votes to Approve DNA Testing Bill
AUSTIN - Acting on legislation that has been declared an emergency by Gov. Rick Perry, the Senate on Monday voted to approve a bill that would establish procedures for the preservation and use of DNA evidence and post-conviction testing.
The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 3, sponsored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan and co-sponsored by 28 other members of the Senate, was overwhelmingly passed after a short debate on the floor.
The most pointed questions during the debate came from Bryan Sen. Steve Ogden. Ogden said he supports the concept of the bill, but has concerns about the impact the bill could have on the appeals process. Duncan characterized CSSB 3 as a "check and balance" in the criminal justice system.
Ogden and Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff are the only members of the Senate who have not signed on as co-sponsors of CSSB 3. Although he still represents the First District as a senator, as lieutenant governor Ratliff does not sponsor legislation and generally does not vote on bills when they come up in the Senate.
A similar bill has been filed in the House of Representatives. If the House passes its own version of the DNA testing bill, the two chambers will work together to craft legislation to submit to Perry.
Ratliff said he is optimistic that the Senate will be able to come up with a bill that will pass in both chambers.
"I feel good about the process," Ratliff said. "They'll get it done. Sen. Duncan is a very knowledgeable and thorough sponsor."
In other action during Monday's session, the Senate voted to approve a variety of other measures, including the Committee Substitute for Senate Concurrent Resolution (CSSCR) 2, which would designate the pecan "The Official Health Nut of Texas."
The floor debate on CSSCR 2 was lengthy but light. After several humorous questions and observations from members of the Senate, Ratliff recognized Lake Jackson Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown cautiously: "Sen. Brown, for what purpose, I'm afraid to ask."
"I thought Sen. (Mike) Moncrief was the official health nut of the Senate," Brown replied.
In response, Marble Falls Sen. Troy Fraser, the sponsor of CSSCR 2, summed up the debate on the resolution: "It's a rather nutty bill."
Other measures the Senate approved on Monday were:
- CSSB 201 (Duncan): Would increase the pool from which a grand jury commission can select jurors to as many as 40 individuals.
- SB 208 (Teel Bivins-Amarillo): Would add data on graduates' college performance to the information school districts must report each year.
- SB 338 (Frank L. Madla-San Antonio): Would direct the Texas Department of Health to develop a plan to deal with Hepatitis C.
- SB 479 (Royce West-Dallas): Would require that protective orders be entered into the Department of Public Safety statewide law enforcement information system within 10 days after the order is received.
- SCR 6 (Fraser): Would make the completion of construction of Interstate 95 a priority for use as a military transport route to Texas ports.
- CSSCR 20 (West): Would urge judges in family law cases to increase the use of alternative dispute resolution procedures in resolving child-custody disputes.
The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. Tuesday.