A proposal related to a moratorium on executions passed unsurprisingly out of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence last Friday. The vote is below. TMN’s members sent hundreds of emails to the chair and committee members since January. We say unsurpisingly because there are 7 Democrats and only 2 Republicans on this committee, so we figured they would do the right thing.

Unfortunately, the proposal is not likely to get much support from Republicans for a reason that was mentioned during the committee hearing. One member of the committee asked Naishtat, “We heard this bill passed this committee in 2001. What’s the reluctance to pass it. What did you run in to.” Naishtat replied: “I don’t know. All I can guess is that the governor may not want the authority to be able to declare a moratorium. …. if we assume that the sitting governor does not want that authority, then I can understand there would be pressure from the governor’s office to stop the bill from getting through.”

There is a way to get around the governor’s objections and at the same time to have a chance of enacting a moratorium sooner, since even if Gov Perry had the power to call a moratorium, he is unlikely to ever use the power. A better proposal was filed most recently last session by Garnet Coleman. It would have enacted a moratorium directly upon approval of the voters through a constitutional amendment. Instead of giving the governor the power to call a moratorium, the Legislature should do what was proposed in 2001 by Shapleigh (SJR 25) and Dutton (HJR 56) and in 2005 by Garnet Coleman (HJR 73), to bypass the governor and give the people of Texas the authority to enact a moratorium. Governor Perry may be more willing to support such a proposal rather than the proposal to give him the power to call a moratorium, since he can put the question up to the people and get it out of his hands. In 2001, the El Paso Times endorsed the proposal to have a statewide vote on a temporary two-year moratorium: “Let the people decide, Moratorium on executions should go to voters“. The Legislature should also find a bill to amend to include a provision to create a commission to study capital punishment.

From the minutes of last Friday’s House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee:

The chair moved that HJR 23, without amendments, be reported favorably to the full house with the recommendation that it do pass and be printed. The motion prevailed by the following record vote:

Ayes: Representatives Pena; Vaught; Escobar; Hodge; Mallory Caraway (5).

Nays: Representative Riddle (1).

Present, Not Voting: None (0).

Absent: Representatives Moreno, Paul; Pierson; Talton (3).

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