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Relating to the creation of a commission to review certain penal laws of this state and to make certain recommendations regarding those laws, to criminal offenses previously compiled in statutes outside the Penal Code, to repealing certain of those offenses, and to conforming punishments for certain of those offenses to the penalty structure provided in the Penal Code; increasing the punishment for the criminal offenses of sedition, sabotage, and capital sabotage; imposing a civil penalty.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 226 would create a panel to review and make recommendations to the legislature on the state's penal laws. The recommendations from this panel would include the repeal or amendment of laws that they identify as unnecessary, unclear, duplicative, overly broad, or otherwise insufficient. This committee would be comprised of nine members; two appointed by the Governor, two appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, two appointed by the Speaker, two appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and one appointed by the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. By November 1, 2020 the committee would be required to report its findings and recommendations to the Governor. This committee would exist only until December 31, 2020.
In addition, HB 226 would transfer Sections 557.001 and 557.011 of the Gov. Code, to Ch. 40 of the Penal Code, changing the penalty for the offense of sedition to up to twenty years and upgrading the offense of sabotage to be a minimum of two years and maximum twenty years in prison. Under this new law, these two offenses would be classified as second degree felonies.
Finally, HB 226 would alter or reduce the penalties for offenses such as practicing dentistry without a license, retaining individuals with criminal convictions for certain positions of employment, and reduce penalties for a forfeiture of lease. The bill would alter various civil penalties for frivolous claims and also reduce misdemeanors for certain offenses involving the Parks and Wildlife Code. HB 226 also repeals a handful of offenses including the indecent display of graphic material by a license holder.
Texas Action supports HB 226 because it advances the principles of limited government and individual liberty. This bill reduces the sentences for many offenses which reduces over-criminalization and leads to lower incarceration rates and reduced time for offenders, saving the state money. The bill also strikes some such as indecent display of graphic material by a license holder which increases individual liberty because what someone chooses to display in their office is their own choice. It is right and proper for governments to, from time to time, take stock of their penal codes to ensure that the code is just, unnecessary, duplicitous, or overly harsh laws are repealed. A hallmark of effective and efficient justice system consistent with limited government and individual liberty is that punishment remains proportional to the crime. This bill will help to achieve that goal.