Chairman Coleman Holding County Affairs Hearing in Houston / Bail Reform Efforts Spread Through Texas/ Deadline to Register to Vote Monday


NEXT WEEK:
Chairman Coleman Holding County Affairs Committee Hearing in Houston

The House Committee on County Affairs that I chair will meet in Houston on Tuesday, February 6th to hear from experts and the public regarding interim charges related to Hurricane Harvey and future flood prevention.  Additionally, the Committee will discuss the implementation of SB 1849, otherwise known as the “Sandra Bland Act.” Please see below for location and parking details.

A tour of the Hurricane Harvey affected areas of the University of Houston – Downtown campus will be given at 9:00 am and the Committee hearing will follow. Elected officials and the general public from the Houston area are encouraged to attend and provide testimony to committee members on ways to improve state and county-run programs scheduled for the hearing.

The Committee will be hearing invited and public testimony related to the implementation of the “Sandra Bland Act” and the following interim charges:

  • Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate.
  • Evaluate whether counties have the necessary ordinance-making and enforcement authority to deal with flood risk in unincorporated rural and suburban areas of Texas.  Additionally, examine whether counties have adequate resources and authority to ensure that new development in unincorporated areas is not susceptible to flooding.

WHERE:
The University of Houston – Downtown
Welcome Center Building – Milam & Travis Rooms
201 Girard Street Houston, TX 77002

Directions:
The best way to travel to UHD is by way of Travis Street (traveling northbound), make a right on Girard Street (don’t go through the light or you will end up on the freeway). Once you make the right on Girard, pull into the first driveway on the right.  Pull into the left lane of the driveway, and enter the UHD Visitor parking lot.

Once you park, enter the elevators that are closest to the entrance of the Visitor parking garage (the Welcome Center Building), and proceed to the third floor where you will see the Milam & Travis Room.


Helpful Links:

  • Click here for general Driving Directions to Campus.
  • Click here for a campus map.
    • Visitor Parking is #6 on the map. There are also several metered parking lots around campus indicated in yellow at this link.
  • UHD is accessible by MetroRail using the University of Houston-Downtown Station stop.

Bail Reform Efforts Spread Across Texas

While Harris County is still in litigation regarding its bail reform practices, a similar effort has spread to Dallas County. As reported by the Texas Tribune here, “Six indigent misdemeanor and felony defendants arrested this week and held in the Dallas County Jail filed suit against the county on Sunday night, claiming the bail system unconstitutionally discriminates against them by holding them in jail for days or weeks while letting similar defendants with cash walk free.”

In May 2017, Representative Armando Walle (D- Houston) and I sent a letter (click here to read) to the Office of the Harris County Attorney regarding the decision by the Harris County Commissioner’s Court to appeal an April 2017 ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal in O’Donnell v. Harris County, ordering Harris County to release misdemeanor defendants on personal bonds within 24 hours after they sign an affidavit stating they cannot afford cash bail.

We were disappointed in the county’s decision to continue litigation and appeal Judge Rosenthal’s thorough and comprehensive decision condemning Harris County’s pretrial detention system, especially when the county has already paid almost $5 million to outside counsel for this case.

In addition to being a waste of county resources, the current bail system is dangerous. Most of the over 1,100 people who died in Texas jails in the past decade were pretrial detainees, according to a 2015 Houston Chronicle investigation. In Harris County, from 2009 to 2015, 55 people died in pretrial detention, including some defendants arrested for misdemeanors, similar to the ones that initiated this litigation.

It was Harris County yesterday, Dallas County today, and there will likely be another Texas county tomorrow. We must put an end to jailing people who are charged with misdemeanors simply because they cannot pay bail in all of Texas.

That is why I included bail reform in the original Sandra Bland Act.  I also joint-authored Representative Andrew Murr (R-Kerrville) and supported HB 3011 and SB 1338 by Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) that also addressed bail reform. Regrettably, both Rep. Murr’s and Sen. Whitmire’s bills died and the bail reform parts where removed from the Sandra Bland Act.

I will continue to fight for bail reform if re-elected and keep you updated on this important topic as it works its way through the court system.


Only 3 Days Left to Register to Vote
in the March Primaries

There is still time to register to vote in March’s primary if you have not yet ─ the deadline is MONDAY, February 5th. You can fill out the voter registration form online by clicking here. However, after filling the form out you will need to print it out and mail it to the address on the form (address varies based on your location).

If you need help getting registered to vote, please click here or call my office at (512) 463-0524.


Our song of the week is “Have You Been To Jail For Justice?”
by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

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