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Tougher Penalties For Hit and Runs, Bomb Threats To Be Heard at Capitol Today
Tough talk expected at the Capitol this Tuesday when it comes to penalties for crimes here in Texas. The focus of one bill: tougher penalties for people who hit and kill someone while behind the wheel then leave the scene.
Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin’s Senate Bill 275 takes center stage Tuesday afternoon in the form of a public hearing. If passed, SB 275 would add a decade of possible jail to a person’s punishment if they hit someone, leave the scene, and that person dies. Right now, failing to stop and render aid is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in jail. This bill would bump it up to a second degree felony. It’s a move the family of Courtney Griffin, the woman killed in a hit and run accident by Gabrielle Nestande, has thrown their support behind.
Another big talker: more jail time for those found guilty of making bomb threats to colleges and universities. UT was in the national spotlight last fall when thousands of students were evacuated after bomb threats in September. On Tuesday morning, lawmakers will hear House Bill 1284 from Dallas-area Rep. Eric Johnson. It’s already a state jail felony to call in a threat to primary or secondary schools and certain utilities. Now this bill would add colleges and universities to that list. That means between six months to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.
Another hot-button item: a bill focusing on social media usage by registered sex offenders. Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer of San Antonio’s House Bill 23 would make sex offenders put their registration status on their profile and make it viewable by all visitors, along with their crime and where they were convicted, full name and defining characteristics and address.
Members of Texas Voices of Reason and Justice, a group that lobbies for what they call “common sense” measures for offenders, plan to speak out against the bill. They say it won’t enhance public safety, it’s difficult to enforce, and the information is already on the Internet.
If the bills pass, the changes would take effect September 1.
By Adam Bennett