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Dewhurst Issues Criminal Justice, Transportation & Homeland Security Interim Charges

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst released the 82nd Legislative Session Select Interim Charges Relating to Criminal Justice and Transportation & Homeland Security on Friday, Jan. 13. Those of particular interest to counties include the following:

Criminal Justice Committee

Charge: Study the law governing the Texas bail bond industry and determine local practices for the pretrial release of the accused. Determine the financial impact of various pretrial release options and the financial impact of counties for the failure to release pretrial.
TAC Commentary: The most recent state budget prohibits local Community Supervision and Corrections Departments (CSCDs) from using state funds to implement pretrial release programs. This measure may result in increased jail populations if counties do not have the resources to assist courts in placement and supervision options for some lower-level, non-violent offenders awaiting trial.

Charge: Evaluate existing comprehensive diversion and treatment systems within the state, including mental health treatment, to determine cost effectiveness, reductions in correctional populations, impact on healthcare systems, and the overall number of people treated effectively. Examine federal, state and local collaborations and make recommendations for best practices to maximize effective use of funding and resources.
TAC Commentary: Jail diversion initiatives, community mental health programs, impact on local budgets and their contributing support of these programs may be reviewed for success and efficiency.

Charge: Conduct a comprehensive review of school discipline practices. Specifically, review and make recommendation on: the effectiveness of Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEP) and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs (JJAEP).
TAC Commentary:
Some counties participate in funding these alternative education programs through joint memorandums of understanding with local school districts and rely on reimbursements from the state to assist with the programs.

Charge: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice in the 82nd Legislature and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance and/or complete implementation. Specifically:

  • Implementation of and transition to the new Texas Juvenile Justice Department. Examine the consolidation of the probation and parole functions, and make recommendations to enhance the integration of the two agencies.
  • TAC Commentary: Budgets for these agencies and services will be reviewed; county departments may realize increased responsibilities as caseloads and programs are integrated into one system.

  • Overall care of female inmates.

    TAC Commentary: This will include care and treatment of juvenile and adult female inmate populations.

    Transportation & Homeland Security Committee

    Charge: Analyze the financial and personnel situation at 911 or emergency call centers across the state. Determine if call centers can be run more efficiently and effectively. The committee shall consider the oversight of local and county officials in their findings and recommendations.
    TAC Commentary:
    Due to limited allocated funding, many call centers have had to be consolidated and staffing reduced. This charge is an opportunity for the committee to evaluate how these choices are implemented and the effect of these decisions on efficiency and public safety.

    Charge: Study current state statutes and agency rules regulating oversize and overweight vehicles. Evaluate the public safety benefit of enforcing these regulations and effectiveness in preventing roadway damage, including the cost of repair and maintenance to infrastructure associated with overweight vehicles. Provide recommendations that balance economic productivity, public safety, and protection and maintenance or roadways. Provide recommendations on the need for additional weights and measures training for law enforcement in this state.
    TAC Commentary:
    Oversize and overweight vehicles continue to do damage to federal, state, and county roads and bridges. Although truck transportation is arguably an important part of the state’s economy, revenue from state-issued overweight permits does not materially mitigate the damage done to county roads and bridges by overweight trucks.

    Charge: Study and make recommendations regarding the methods of financing for capital investment in the state’s transportation system. Examine ways to prevent further wear on our roadways and reduce congestion in the system. Consider the long-term impact of the accumulation of debt for transportation projects, as well as the total cost of vehicle ownership as a result of varying levels of congestion and road maintenance. Educate and inform the public regarding the seriousness of the transportation challenges to better engage the public in forming a solution. (Joint Charge with Senate Finance)
    TAC Commentary:
    State transportation funding is an often-studied interim topic, yet transportation funding remains dire. Existing revenue streams are inadequate, as factors combine to limit it, including increased fuel efficiency, Fund 6 diversions, inflation, funding debts, uncertain federal funding, the aging of the transportation infrastructure, and an unwillingness or inability on the part of the Legislature to increase transportation funding in any kind of meaningful way. As the state’s population continues to grow and our infrastructure continues to age, a sharpened focus on increased funding becomes more and more necessary to the state’s economic health. Charge: Monitor the implementation of legislation addressed by the Senate Committee on Transportation & Homeland Security, 82nd Legislature, Regular and Called Sessions, and make recommendations for any legislation needed to improve, enhance, and/or complete implementation. Specifically, monitor the following:

  • Implementation of Proposition 12 funding provided by the fiscal year 2012-13 Appropriations Act, including an assessment of the impact of this funding on the state’s Top 50 list of congested roadway segments and the funding needed to advance each region’s priorities in fiscal year 2014-2015;

    TAC Commentary:
    In 2011, the Legislature authorized TxDOT to go to contract on approximately $3 billion in general obligation bonds for highway improvements. Voters approved these bonds in 2007 as Proposition 12.

  • Progress of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Driver License Division efforts to enhance driver's license processing, including technology and staff improvements, establishment of mega centers, additional mobile offices, and increased number of temporary visitor document processing staff.

    TAC Commentary: In a cost-saving measure, DPS has begun closing DPS driver’s license offices in parts of the state. Closure of DPS offices across the state has caused hardship for residents of numerous counties who must now drive much greater distances to take driving tests and obtain driver's licenses.