window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag('js', new Date()); gtag('config', 'UA-29484371-30');
Tuesday , October 22 2019
Lucha 2 728
Bordertown Undergroun Show 728
STEP 728
Utep Football Generic 728
Mountains 728
BTU Catrina 728
Amy’s Astronomy
Home | Tag Archives: Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

Tag Archives: Texas Criminal Justice Coalition

Lawmakers compare Driver Surcharge Program to Debtors’ Prison

State senators expressed bipartisan disapproval Wednesday of an unpopular program that levies large surcharges on drivers for traffic offenses, with several calling for broad changes or for scrapping it entirely.

The Driver Responsibility Program, created in 2003 to address a budget shortfall and promote more responsible driving, requires drivers convicted of certain traffic offenses, such as speeding and driving while intoxicated, to pay additional annual surcharges on top of any court fines and criminal penalties to maintain their driver’s licenses. Nearly 1.3 million drivers now have invalid licenses, according to the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

Some lawmakers have previously defended the program because it sends millions of dollars each year to hospitals and trauma centers. While state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, raised those concerns at Wednesday’s Senate Transportation Committee hearing, others on the committee suggested seeking alternative sources of funding, as critics spoke of the hardships the program’s penalties caused, such as lost jobs and stints in jail.

Democratic Sens. Sylvia Garcia and Rodney Ellis of Houston made comparisons between the program and payday loans scams.

“It just makes poor people poor,” Garcia said.

State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, likened the program to debtors’ prison, a comparison that other senators returned to throughout the hearing.

“Obviously, it doesn’t bother a rich person, someone who has the ability to pay,” Huffines said. “But we’re creating a permanent underclass.”

During last year’s legislative session, the Senate approved a proposal to weaken the program. That measure died in the House. However, another bill passed that reduced some of the surcharges. Senators’ comments at Wednesday’s hearing suggested a strong interest in either dramatically reforming the program or scrapping it entirely when the Legislature meets again next year.

Elizabeth Henneke, a policy attorney at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, endorsed that approach and recommended using court costs and fees to replace any lost trauma care funding. She described one case she worked on in which a single DWI for a 67-year-old woman eventually escalated into $25,000 in fines and several prison stays.

Jennifer Quereau of the Legislative Budget Board said New York and New Jersey are the only remaining states with a similarly structured Driver Responsibility Program. Virginia repealed its version of the program, and Michigan is currently phasing its out, she said.

“We’re one of the few states that still has this draconian system going,” state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, said. “I think we need to look at what other states have done that has had success.”

Outside the hearing room, Bill Hammond, CEO of the Texas Association of Business said he was troubled by the way the program forces people who need to drive to work to risk exorbitant penalties.

“It’s failed public policy. It’s not working,” Hammond said, describing it as “double jeopardy.” “In order for people to eat, they have to work, and in order for them to work, they’ve got to drive in most cases. So it’s just a cascading situation that gets worse and worse, and it doesn’t create the behavior it’s intended to create.”

Judge Jean Sprawling Hughes of Harris County Criminal Court also spoke out against the program.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a public law with such dire unintended consequences,” Hughes said.

Asked by Kolkhorst what could be done to promote responsible driving absent the program, Hughes argued that people have to be raised to be responsible from childhood.

“We have a population that’s never going to change,” Hughes said. “The people that are going to flaunt the law are going to flaunt it. Even if I put them in jail for the maximum time, it’s not going to change their behavior.”

Disclosure: The Texas Association of Business is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Texas Law protects landlords who lease to non-violent ex-offenders

A new law protects Texas landlords from liability when they lease apartments to persons with a non-violent criminal history.

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, which backed House Bill 1510 in the 2015 Legislature, has published a set of guidelines to help both landlords and potential tenants understand their rights under the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1.

Doug Smith, a policy analyst with Texas CJC, says the aim is to keep people who’ve served their time from going back to prison.

“Two of the factors that are most associated with recidivism, with increased likelihood that someone will be rearrested or go back to prison, are employment instability and housing instability,” says Smith.

He says the law was formulated along with the Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition and other groups as diverse as the ACLU and the Texas Association of Business. The guide instructs landlords about how the law works to protect them when they lease a dwelling to a tenant with a record. Another guide is written to instruct advocates and individuals seeking housing.

Smith says in the past, many property owners have had a general ban on leasing to persons with criminal records. He says that while the law does not require landlords to rent to ex-offenders, he’s hoping it will change at least some minds.

“For landlords it really raising awareness that the threat of liability is not there,” says Smith. “And if they take a risk on someone who might have a non-violent offense, they don’t have to be concerned that they might get sued by other tenants within that community.”

The new guidelines are being distributed to property managers and landlords across the state, as well as advocacy groups and others. Copies of the guidelines are available at

Author: Mark Richardson, Public News Service

BTU Catrina 728
Utep Football Generic 728
Rhinos 2019/2020 728
Amy’s Astronomy
Lucha 2 728
STEP 728
Mountains 728
Bordertown Undergroun Show 728