Exoneration panel clears preliminary House vote
A new state panel would investigate wrongful convictions in Texas under a bill given preliminary approval in the House.
The proposed Tim Cole Exoneration Review Commission is named for an Army veteran who died in prison in 1999 and was posthumously exonerated by DNA evidence nearly a decade later.
Democratic state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon on Tuesday told House members that “each vindication of an innocent person reveals a tragic failure in the justice system.” Her bill would create a commission charged with uncovering why a person was wrongfully convicted when there is a formal exoneration.
Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson is among the prominent names supporting the idea. Lawmakers this session have given heightened attention to wrongful convictions after a recent run of high-profile exonerations in Texas.
Study finds voice no safer than text
Typing a text message while driving might be illegal by later this year, but the alternatives that drivers may turn to — including voice-to-text technology — will not be any safer, suggests a new study reported by the Texas Tribune.
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute study, released Tuesday, suggests that voice-to-text technology — which transcribes spoken words into written text without typing — hurts driving ability as much as traditional text messaging. The study lands as lawmakers are discussing a statewide ban on sending text messages while driving. Many cities already have bans.
The bill passed in the House after fierce debate and is headed to the Senate, which passed similar legislation two years ago. But Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the bill in 2011, calling it “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”
Senate allows more high-level radioactive waste
The Texas Senate approved a bill Tuesday allowing a West Texas nuclear waste facility to import materials with greater radioactivity from other states while encouraging the export of lower-level materials out of Texas.
The bill by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would keep the maximum volume and radioactivity allowed at the Andrews County site the same, and only changes what materials would be stored at Waste Control Specialists’ 1,300-acre radioactive waste burial ground.
The nuclear waste dump site, whose majority owner is billionaire and GOP mega-donor Harold Simmons, accepted its first low-level radioactive waste about a year ago.
The company, Andrews County and the state stand to make more money from the hotter waste. The county receives 5 percent and the state 25 percent of the company’s revenue quarterly.
The bill now goes to the House, where a similar bill is under consideration.