House and Senate committees advance GOP bail legislation

The bill was passed by the House

AUSTIN – A stricter felony bail system in the State of Texas is a step closer to reality following the third day of the Special Session in Austin.

House and Senate bills designed to make the bail system stricter made it out of committee hearings and are now set to go to the floors of both chambers in the coming days.

Following unanimous approval in the Senate, applause and cheers erupted.

Theresa Seck was one of those relishing in the bill’s progress, but the celebration was bittersweet.

“If this bill was in place, my brother definitely would be alive today,” said Seck.

In September 2020, Seck’s brother Patrick was murdered in the Galleria area. Patrick’s alleged killer was out on bond.

During the regular session, the bill came up short in the final days, but Seck feels strongly about the bill’s outcome during this special session.

“I’m confident that something will be done because this is common sense,” said Seck.

However, reforming the bail system when it involves felonies is complex.

“Nothing is ever perfect, but it’s an excellent bill,” said State Senator Joan Huffman, an author of the bill.

At its core, the bill is designed to make it more difficult for violent defendants who are already on bond to get back out on the streets after being charged with a new violent crime.

In several instances that KPRC 2 Investigates has examined, defendants with another pending matter were released after posting little or no bail.

“Hopefully, this bill, as it came out of committee and it will come out of the legislature, will put a stop to PR bonds (Personal Recognizance) for these multiple violent offenders,” said Huffman.

The bill received bipartisan support in the Senate committee.

Democratic state Senator Jose “Chuy” Hinojosa believes judges need more training, along with stricter guidelines when evaluating bail in cases where the defendant is already awaiting trial in another violent case.

“We are telling the judge, ‘This is what you have to ask. This is what you have to look at. Here is the background information,’” said Hinojosa.

While it took only a few hours for the bill to breeze through the Senate committee, it was a much different story in the House. Over nine hours of testimony was heard before a 9-6 vote was called. The final numbers were dominated by Republicans.

Democratic Representative Senfronia Thompson from Houston feels the bill doesn’t address everything.

“We’re just putting a band-aid over the situation,” she said.

However, prior to the vote, Thompson told KPRC 2 Investigates, “We want to keep people who are violently locked down just like everybody else.”

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