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Sandra Bland Act passes

Good.

Sandra Bland

The Texas House initially approved the Sandra Bland Act on Friday with a unanimous vote. The body now has to vote on the mental health bill one more time before it reaches Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. (Update, May 20: The House voted 137-0 to give the bill final approval)

Senate Bill 1849 would mandate that county jails divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment, make it easier for defendants with a mental illness or intellectual disability to receive a personal bond and require that independent law enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths.

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Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire struck several provisions from the original bill amid criticism from police groups that it would hamper law enforcement’s work, including adding extra steps to legally secure a consent search. Bland’s family expressed disappointment in the Senate version of the bill, calling it a missed opportunity because it removed language relevant to Bland’s stop.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston, and other lawmakers have said they understand the disappointment, but there will be other opportunities to address in legislation interactions with police.

See here for the background. Sandra Bland’s family was not happy with the Senate changes to the bill, but it’s almost always better to pass something that can be built on later rather than pass nothing and hope to try again from scratch. It may take several sessions before anything else gets done, and nothing will happen without a big push, but this was progress and I’m glad it succeeded. A statement from Rep. Coleman is beneath the fold.

Today, May 20, 2017, the Texas House of Representatives passed on third reading SB 1849, known as the Sandra Bland Act. SB 1849 is the Senate companion to HB 2702 that Representative Garnet Coleman (D-147) wrote in the House. Rep. Coleman released the following statement:

“Today the Sandra Bland Act passed the Texas House of Representatives on third reading, and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk. It is time that we make progress in criminal justice reform that will keep both law enforcement and the public safe and prevent future tragedies like Sandra Bland’s. The Sandra Bland Act came about during an interim study by the House Committee on County Affairs that I chair. I thank House Speaker Joe Straus, Representative Joe Moody, Representative Todd Hunter, Representative Senfronia Thompson, Representative James White, and Senator Whitmire along with advocacy groups and law enforcement for working with me. The Sandra Bland Act will have a meaningful impact on mental health in Texas’ county jails and will act as a building block to build upon in the future. The Sandra Bland Act alongside Senator West’s SB 30 that I am a joint sponsor with Representative Thompson on will make everyone safer.”

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