The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety (Article V) met on March 28 to review agency appropriations and requests. The subcommittee, chaired by Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), is continuing with its “kinder-gentler” version of the budget and is giving thoughtful consideration to restoring funds that will directly impact programs at the local level.
The committee increased the criminal justice budget by about $450 million, thus restoring programs that were not included in SB 1. Some of the criminal justice recommendations adopted by the full Senate Finance Committee on March 31 are:
- Restoration of general revenue funds to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards in the same amount as was appropriated in the House, $328,670 in each year of the biennium. The House and Senate restored the funding due to the feedback members have received from local officials and the reluctance to impose unfunded mandates on counties through the collection of inspection fees to support the agency. This amount will almost fully restore the agency’s Inspection and Enforcement budget.
- The Texas Juvenile Probation Commission received $38.5 milion in grant funding, reinstatement of the $79 per day to reimburse counties that operate mandatory Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs, and the agency has requested $1.5 million for operation and maintenance of the Juvenile Case Management System.
- The Texas Department of Criminal Justice should see increases in the neighborhood of $362 million, with about $63 million allocated to probation, $30 million for substance abuse treatment, and $15.9 million for previously approved pay increases for probation officers.
These recommendations, however, must still receive approval from the full Senate, and any differences between the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill must be worked out in conference.