Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Posts Tagged ‘John Whitmire’

The DPS two-step

First, there was this. Despite a two-year budget of $2.4 billion, the Texas Department of Public Safety, with little notice, has reduced office hours at 11 of the state’s busiest driver’s license offices and plans to lay off more than 100 full-time employees to deal with a $21 million funding crunch. The statewide police agency’s […]

No Astrodome vote this fall

This is a bit of a surprise. [Sen. John] Whitmire filed a bill that would force the county to get voter approval before spending any money on the Dome. “It’s a dream and you shouldn’t spend taxpayer dollars on a dream,” Whitmire said. Whitmire’s bill sailed through the Senate, but hit a brick wall in […]

Sandra Bland Act passes

Good. 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 […]

Sandra Bland bill clears the Senate

Good news. The Texas Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill aimed at protecting people with mental illnesses who are arrested and may harm themselves in jail. The legislation — Senate Bill 1849 — was filed after a high-profile incident in 2015 in which Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old Illinois woman, was found dead in the […]

Senate approves bail reform bill

Good. After weeks of politically touchy negotiations capped by a shove from a Houston federal judge, the Texas Senate on Thursday approved significant changes in the state’s bail bond system designed to keep low-level offenders from sitting in jail because they cannot afford to pay cash bail. While the reforms had once been touted as […]

Bail bondsmen complain about bail reform bill

I understand their concerns, but that doesn’t mean I agree with them. Legislation touted as a fix-all to reform Texas’ controversial jail-release system was blasted Tuesday by bail bondsmen and attorneys who said it would destroy the bail-bond industry and leave taxpayers footing a multimillion-dollar tab. “The whole industry will be out of business” if […]

Busy day in the Senate

They got stuff done, I’ll give them that. Whether it was stuff worth doing or not, I’ll leave to you. 1. Senate bill would let Houston voters weigh in on fix to pension crisis. The Senate on Wednesday voted 21-10 to give preliminary approval of a bill that would require voters to sign off before […]

Whitmire Astrodome bill passes out of committee

Whatever. A Senate committee voted Monday in favor of a bill that would require Harris County residents to approve a county project to renovate the Astrodome by raising its floors and installing parking underneath. The bill could effectively could torpedo the county’s $105 million project to raise the ground level two floors to fit in […]

Bail reform bills

Glad to see this. An unusual bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and judges has teamed up to back broad reforms in Texas that could eliminate cash bail for nonviolent offenders who are not deemed dangerous or a flight risk. Bills introduced simultaneously in the House and the Senate this week by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston and […]

More on the Whitmire Astrodome bill

I still don’t care for this. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett voiced concern Tuesday that a bill filed by a veteran state senator jeopardizes the county’s plan to revitalize the Astrodome, adding that county representatives would continue to try to persuade legislators to support the $105 million project. Emmett said state Sen. John Whitmire’s bill, […]

Harris County really needs to settle that bail practices lawsuit

Enough already. Two Houston-based lawmakers called on Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan Friday to dismiss an attorney hired to represent county judges in a federal civil rights lawsuit, after that attorney claimed in a hearing that many people jailed in Harris County were there by choice – not because they could not afford to post […]

We don’t need another vote on the Astrodome

Not for this we don’t, anyway. Less than five months ago, the future of the Astrodome seemed to be more secure than it has been in the decades since it hosted its last Astros game, with Harris County commissioners moving forward on a massive renovation project they said would usher in festivals, conferences and commercial […]

City sued over bail practices

One more lawsuit going after the practice of jailing people who can’t afford to post bonf. Two civil rights groups sued the city of Houston late Monday, alleging the city jail has detained people for days at a time without offering them a hearing to determine if there was probable cause for the initial arrest. […]

Whitmire files complaint against bail-denying magistrates

Good. An influential Texas lawmaker on Thursday filed formal complaints against three Harris County magistrate judges after they were captured on videotape rushing misdemeanor defendants to jail without considering no-cost bonds. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, filed the complaints with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, citing an article published Thursday in the Houston Chronicle […]

The answer is to always cram more people in the jails

Seriously? Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman is asking the state jail commission to let nearly 200 inmates sleep on plastic cots on the floor of the already overcrowded county jail system, a request challenged by more than a dozen Houston-area lawmakers. The lawmakers note that county officials have not fully followed the advice of their […]

Endorsement watch: Labor for Thompson, the Mayor for Miles

From the inbox: The Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO today announced their support of Senfronia Thompson for State Senator District 13. “Our unions screened two candidates for Senate District 13 — Representatives Senfronia Thompson and Borris Miles,” said Zeph Capo, President of the Area Labor Federation. “Both candidates have been steadfast allies in […]

Shots fired at Sen. Whitmire’s office

Jesus. State Sen. John Whitmire said Thursday afternoon he believes the gun used in the predawn shooting of his Houston-area office was likely an AR-15 assault rifle. The Houston Democrat’s office was fired on at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. No one was injured in the shooting, which was first reported by KHOU. “[The bullets] were […]

Another way to achieve bail reform

From the Quorum Report: The unnecessary death of Sandra Bland in the Waller County Jail last summer has now put the reform of bail bonds in focus as a key criminal justice issue ahead of the next legislative session. Last month, a Waller County grand jury declined to indict those involved in [Sandra] Bland’s arrest […]

Endorsement watch: Latino electeds for Gene Green

Not a big surprise. U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, will pick up support from several Houston political players Tuesday. The 12-term congressman faces what could be a formidable primary challenge in the form of former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. According to a Green campaign press release, seven Houston Democrats are ready to […]

Will Sandra Bland’s death help lead to bail reform?

That would be a fitting and just outcome if it does. Harris County and the state should reform an unfair bond system that punishes the poor more harshly, according to civil rights leaders, legislative officials and criminal experts who gathered Wednesday in front of the county’s criminal justice center. Reform, they argued, could prevent another […]

Grand jury reform bill in trouble

Not good. Six weeks after sailing through the Texas Senate, efforts to reform the state’s controversial grand jury selection system have stalled in the House. A closely watched bill to end the “pick-a-pal” system suffered an unexpected setback late Monday when the lawmaker carrying the bill in the House weakened it and then withdrew the […]

Turner & Whitmire

No, not the latest buddy cop movie, just two old legislative friends helping each other out. Texas’ most senior state senator turned to the crowd during a September fundraiser for state Rep. Sylvester Turner and ribbed his friend and would-be Houston mayor. “My name is John Whitmire, and I’m Sylvester Turner’s state senator,” he said, […]

Decriminalizing truancy

This is important. Senate Bill 106, filed by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, would make major overhauls to current truancy law, including referring students to a civil court that hears truancy cases rather than a criminal court. Under current law, children as young as 12 who miss 10 or more days or parts of days in […]

The pension deal

Not sure yet how I feel about this. Mayor Annise Parker and Houston’s firefighter pension trustees have reached a deal that would lower the city’s payments for three years, a move that would mark an abrupt reversal for the mayor. The announcement came late Thursday from the fire pension board, whose leaders for years have […]

Statewide non-discrimination ordinance filed

From the Inbox: On the 179th anniversary of Texas Independence Day, Senator José Rodríguez (D-El Paso) filed Senate Bill 856, a bill that would prohibit discrimination in the areas of employment, public accommodation, housing, and state contracting based upon sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. The bill was joint-authored by Senators John Whitmire (D-Houston), […]

Reforming the grand jury system

Harris County DA Devon Anderson comes out in favor of changing how grand juries are selected. I have been the Harris County district attorney for 17 months now. In that time, one of the most frequently recurring issues I have been asked to address has been the selection of grand jurors by jury commissioners. Until […]

Expect to hear more about Perry vetos and no-bid contracts

Bring it on. Democratic lawmakers and government watchdog groups on Saturday called for the reopening of an investigation into no-bid state contracts that ended in 2013 after Gov. Rick Perry vetoed funding for the team conducting it. The critics decried the millions of dollars in Department of Public Safety contracts and another set of similar […]

DA’s office to help buy body cams

Very good news. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson plans to purchase hundreds of body-worn cameras for Houston police officers and sheriff’s deputies, weeks after widespread protests erupted when a white Missouri police officer was not charged for fatally shooting an unarmed black teen. In the aftermath of the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo., […]

On grand juries

Some folks are trying to change the makeup of grand juries in Harris County. It was a largely black crowd with at least a third of the audience made up of white people and a few anarchists sprinkled in. They were there to share ideas, sign some petitions, and to vent about injustice in the […]

Endorsement watch: State Senate

The Chron makes another curious choice. District 17: Joan Huffman In District 17, which includes parts of Harris County and counties to the east, Republican incumbent Joan Hoffman has a credible Democratic opponent in Rita Lucido, 58, a family law attorney and activist with such organizations as the Houston Area Women’s Center and Planned Parenthood. […]

Complaint filed against Whitmire

I think this is more a political stunt than anything else, but we’ll see. A conservative group has filed a criminal complaint against state Sen. John Whitmire, accusing him of coercion in an exchange of text messages with University of Houston President Renu Khator that was published in the Houston Chronicle. In the Aug. 16 […]

The Public Integrity Unit probably won’t have to worry about a veto next year

They’ll have bigger things to worry about. With Republican partisans campaigning loudly to strip Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg of her control of the unit, chances of getting the funding restored under her by the GOP-dominated Legislature that convenes in January do not look good. Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said […]

Charles Sebesta may finally have to face responsibility for his actions against Anthony Graves

Very good news. It’s been eight years since the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the DA who prosecuted Anthony Graves for capital murder had done something unconscionable : withheld favorable evidence and used false testimony to secure a conviction—a conviction that sent Graves to death row. Since that federal ruling came down in […]

How much will science advance in the courts?

It’s up to the CCA to decide. Texas’ highest criminal court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that could affect how evolving scientific evidence is used in courtrooms across the state. For Neal H. Robbins, the high court’s decision will determine whether he gets another shot at arguing his innocence. In 1999, a jury […]