The Texas Legislature this year backed away from many proposals for so-called enhancement legislation, a popular political trend over the past decade, reports the Austin American-Statesman. An analysis the Senate Criminal Justice Committee showed that only about a dozen measures were passed to create new felony crimes or increase sentences for existing felonies – roughly half as many as two years ago. At least 99 proposals were filed during the session to toughen felony penalties. The potential effect for Texas taxpayers? More than $1 billion in new money won’t have to be spent on jails and prisons, criminal justice officials say.
It’s a big turnaround from a decade ago, when so-called enhancement legislation was as popular as candy at a day care. In some recent sessions, lawmakers have added as many as 29 new and enhanced crimes to the books. Since 1995, at least 59 offenses and at least 44 toughened penalties have been approved, according to a Texas Legislative Council report issued in February. “It used to be that having an enhancement in your bill pretty much guaranteed it would pass,” state Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat. “This session, it’s the opposite.”