In the wake of the Derek Chauvin conviction for the murder of George Floyd and the upturn of national dialogue surrounding criminal justice reform, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) unveiled a bipartisan package of 16 criminal justice bills.
Joined by Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody (D), Phelan introduced the first component of the Smarter Justice, Safer Texas on Wednesday. According to a press release, the package seeks to “restore public trust, protect public safety, and provide second chances to those who deserve them.”
“Meaningful criminal justice reform demands bold and innovative ideas, and the time for action is now,” said Speaker Phelan. “Smarter Justice, Safer Texas is the culmination of the work by bipartisan members of the Texas House to keep dangerous predators off our street, keep the public safe, and defend the rights of the accused. After years of over-incarceration, we now realize that a compassionate, common sense approach to criminal justice can keep Texans safe, save lives, and save money.”
The package comprises a slate of sixteen bills: Reforming Texas Bail System, Denying Bail for Violent Predators, Requiring Electronic HR Records for Law Enforcement Agencies, Ending Arrests for Non-Violent Offenses, Reducing Costs of Body Camera Data Storage, Enhanced Training for Law Enforcement, Protecting Personal Property from Forfeiture, Stopping Hypnosis Use in Investigations, Narrowing Use of Death Penalty, Establishing Jury Instructions for Capital Felony Cases, Requiring Turnover of Exculpatory Evidence If Discovered Post-Conviction, Creating Pathway to Seek New Trials, Reforming Sentencing for Juveniles, Removing Arbitrary Barriers to Probation, Eliminating Financial Barriers to Re-Entry, and Expunging Decriminalized Offenses.
In an interview, Dade Phelan affirmed his commitment to criminal justice reform and asserted that Texas “can and should lead.” The package is a bipartisan proposal and entails an even split of Democrat and Republican authors. However, the package notably does not include police accountability proposals. Phelan has promised separate consideration for this politically delicate issue.