Jessica’s Law – Texas Legislators Pretending they care for Texas Children

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s Statement on Passage of Jessica’s Law by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee -Texas Tough Plan Will Protect Children

By: Rich Parsons Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today released the following statement on the passage of Jessica’s Law by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
“I want to congratulate the Senate Criminal Justice Committee for passing a ‘Texas tough’ version of Jessica’s Law to better protect our children from sexual predators. Jessica’s Law is an important part of my Texas Children First initiative and one of my highest priorities this Legislative Session. By passing these bills, the committee’s action sends a strong message to the monsters who prey on our children: Not in Texas.

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Jessica’s Law has been hurtling through the Texas Legislature despite the many editorials posted and the largely negative public opinion shared at the committee hearings. Public opinion that included prosecutors, children’s advocates, and capital punishment attorneys.

Jessica’s Law is all about political posturing. David Dewhurst has his eye on the Governor’s Mansion and this is his baby. The Legislators we elected are scared to get in the way in fear of the political fallout if he does end up living in the mansion someday.

This bill is a bait and switch, an attempt to make Texans feel like their children are being protected by those who work in the Capitol in Austin. The numbers tell a different story. Consider the statistics:

  • Texas ranks 46th in children living in poverty in 2005 ( 1 in 5 Texas children lives below the poverty line)
  • 47th in per capita spending by the state mental health agency in 2003
  • 47th in dollars spent per child by the state child abuse and neglect agency in 2004 (particularly interesting in light of SB 5 and HB 8)
  • 48th in Teen Pregnancy in 2003 ( 3 way tie for last place)
  • 49th in percentage of adults with a high school diploma in 2005 (1 in 3 children does not graduate)
  • 49th in percentage of children with health insurance in 2005 ( 1 in 5 children is uninsured)

Yet we’re 27th in per capita income! ( Statistics provided by Texans Care For Children)

We are however 1st in executions, 3rd in prison population behind the federal government and California, and 2 in incarceration rates per population….(Bureau of Justice statistics)

Why isn’t anyone drawing a correlation between these abysmal numbers? And why aren’t we all horribly Angry with our state government for allowing Texas to be so shameful in its funding priorities?

More than a dozen states have implemented versions of Jessica’s Law, and Florida, Montana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina have given prosecutors the go-ahead to seek the death penalty.
Those states have reported costs ranging from $1 million to $130 million, although Ms. Riddle and legislative fiscal analysts have said her bill would cost next to nothing.

This bill represents a continuation of poor funding choices with a Legislative Budget Board that must not be independent either, if they are telling us there is no fiscal implication from considerably longer prison sentences and death penalty trials for sex offenders.

If you are unwilling to consider the fiscal implications, and you are unwilling to consider the opinions of prosecutors, child advocates, and experienced capital trial attorneys, then consider that GOOD Legislation is not made based on our emotional responses to problems. GOOD Legislation considers the facts, and all of the consequences – intended and unintended.

During the testimony before the House committee Rep Riddle asked one of the people testifying against the bill if they had any children. He replied yes – two daughters. Rep. Riddle then stated” Well, wouldn’t you be angry if this happened to your daughters?” Well, of course we would be angry but that does not mean we allow our anger to rule our responses!

Sound policy is NOT based on emotional responses. We are supposed to live in a civilized society, not the Wild West!