By Constable Bruce Elfant
Several issues discussed in recent Constable’s Notebook columns that impact our community were debated during the last legislative session. This notebook will provide a brief summary of actions taken by the legislature regarding issues that have appeared in this column since the 2007 legislative session.
Cell Phones – Dozens of bills ranging from prohibiting all use of cell phones while driving to prohibiting minors from use while driving were filed but only one bill passed. HB 55 prohibits the use of cell phones in school zones unless a “hands free” device is used. Fines could be as high as $200.
Handicap Parking – Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act nearly 20 years ago, violations of state handicap parking laws are as high as ever. HB 3095 doubles the first offense fine for illegal parking in handicap parking spaces from $250 to $500.
Identity Theft – The theft of driver’s licenses and other forms of identification have become increasingly common and frustrating for those who have to get them replaced and clean up their credit record, etc. Theft of a driver’s license or personal identification will increase from a Class C Misdemeanor to a Class B. Efforts to increase the penalty to a Class A were unsuccessful.
Graffiti – Current law defines a graffiti offense only as markings made to another person’s property with spray paint. HB 1633 expands the graffiti offense to markings made by any type of paint and increases the amount of community service judges may order.
Domestic Violence – HB 1506 authorizes judges to require defendants to wear GPS monitoring devices. HB 2240 establishes the offense of Continuous Family Violence. The occurrence of two domestic violence incidents within a one year period could be charged as a 3rd degree felony. SB 83 authorizes victims of domestic violence to terminate residential leases if the perpetrator is also on the lease.
Veterans – Last year I wrote about the number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who suffer a wide range of physical and mental impairments. Many veterans for a variety of reasons do not seek treatment. According to a recent study conducted by the Travis County Veterans Intervention Program an average of 150 veterans are in the Travis County jail at any given time with charges ranging from public intoxication to intoxication manslaughter and other violent offenses. SB 1940 requires county courts to establish deferred prosecution programs for veterans. Those who complete court ordered treatment and stay out of trouble can have their charges dismissed.
More information about these and other bills can be obtained at www.capitol.state.tx.us/ or by calling your state representative or senator.