Criminal Justice Committee Considers Life Without Parole Option
Austin - Legislation which would give jurors the option of life without parole in capital murder cases passed out of the Criminal Justice Committee this afternoon. Brownsville Senator Eddie Lucio, sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) 348, calmed fears that the bill is a step towards doing away with the death penalty. He said that he supports the death penalty, but believes that juries should have the ability to take dangerous criminals off the streets forever. Currently, the other option besides the death penalty is life with the possibility of parole after serving forty years. Texas is one of only four states that does not have the life without parole option.
Horseshoe Bay Senator Troy Fraser, Chair of the Business and Commerce Committee, spoke to the press concerning the progress of SB 14, the insurance regulation bill. Fraser said that the Senators are currently working on a proposed amendment which deals with classifying and determining rates for high risk drivers.
In today's session, the Senate finally passed the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 618, which had been debated yesterday. El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh's legislation would mandate that the commissioner of education reconstitute any school campus rated as low performing for two consecutive years. Schools are ranked based on dropout rates and Texas Assessment of Academic Skills scores. CSSB 618 would also provide for the creation of special campus intervention teams to decide which educators to retain.
Also passed today was SB 946, sponsored by Senator Steve Ogden of College Station. Current law allows a child to receive driver education instruction from certain family members rather than attending a certified public or commercial driver education program. Ogden's legislation would require a child who receives instruction from a family member to pass a driving test administered by the Texas Department of Public Safety before being issued a driver's license. The student would also have to pay a fee to cover the costs of administering the test.
Legislation presented during session by Senator Lucio was also approved by the full Senate. CSSB 264 would continue the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for another twelve years and removes language that gives extra points for letters written by local and state elected officials in application evaluations performed by the department.
Also passed today was SB 132, by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini, which would amend the Transportation Code to allow a county commissioners court to replace or repair any existing cattle guard on a county road.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, April 2, 2003, at 11:00 a.m.