WEEK IN REVIEW
FINANCE FINISHES BUDGET MARKUP
(AUSTIN) — Following weeks of debate about spending priorities, the Senate Finance Committee has finished its initial markup of the bill it will present to the full Senate. The committee closed deliberations on all articles of the budget late Thursday night, and sent the bill to the Legislative Budget Board for technical corrections and non-substantive changes. This will allow Senators to get a look at a finished product before the committee takes a final vote on the bill sometime next week. Finance Committee Chairman Senator Steve Ogden of Bryan said earlier he intends to take a vote on the bill before the Senate breaks for Easter next weekend.
In floor action this week, the Senate voted Thursday to give prosecutors more flexibility in dealing with teenagers that send sexually explicit messages of themselves or peers. Currently, prosecutors can only charge youths that engage in this activity, termed "sexting", under child pornography statutes. Bill author Senator Kirk Watson of Austin said that while parents and lawmakers want to discourage this behavior, they don't want a single youthful indiscretion to stick with a person for the rest of their lives. "This attempts to address that issue, but not put our young people who just might do something stupid in a situation where they're going to carry the life-altering consequences of a felony conviction including registration as a sex offender," he said. Under his bill, youths that transmit sexually explicit images could be charged with misdemeanors instead of felonies. Those that receive the messages wouldn't be subject to prosecution provided they alerted authorities or delete the images without retransmission within 48 hours.
The Senate approved a bill Wednesday that would phase out the Texas Youth Commission by combining it with the Juvenile Probation Commission. The new state agency, called the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, would emphasize probation, treatment and counseling for youth offenders in their home community, rather than incarceration in a state facility far away from family and friends. Because the new emphasis on diversionary treatment will result in a decrease in population at current TYC facilities, the bill includes provisions for small counties to receive ownership of unused state facilities currently under TYC control.
The Senate Administration Committee this week considered the question of who should manage the state's top tourist attraction. The Alamo in San Antonio has been under the custodianship of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas since they saved the mission from development in 1905. Recent controversies surrounding DRT management of the Alamo have left legislators looking for more oversight. A bill approved Thursday by the committee would partner the DRT with the Texas Historical Commission, a move that bill author Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio believes will let the state keep a close eye on the operation and management of the state's most venerable historical landmark. This bill now heads to the Senate for full consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, April 18 at 11 a.m.