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House, Senate move crime-related bills; lemonade stand bill set for conference committee

May 22, 2019

Bill requires DNA swab upon felony arrest

The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to require those arrested for a long list of felonies to provide a DNA sample that can be uploaded to a central database and compared to evidence from other crimes.

Under House Bill 1399, approved 25-6 by the Senate, the collected DNA evidence would have to be destroyed if the charges are dropped or a defendant is acquitted, pardoned or found innocent on appeal.

In addition to crimes related to human trafficking and sexual violence against children and adults, DNA would be collected upon arrest for murder, capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, theft, compelling prostitution and child pornography.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, Senate sponsor of the bill, said the intent is to identify and arrest violent offenders.

“It will undoubtedly save lives,” Creighton said. “These violent offenses are rarely isolated. There’s abundant data indicating that rapists offend over and over until they are caught.”

The bill will return to the House to consider changes made by the Senate.

— Chuck Lindell, American-Statesman

 

House supports creation of new assault charge

The Texas House voted 143-0 Wednesday to give final approval to legislation creating a new crime, indecent assault, that includes jail time for groping and unwanted sexual contact.

Senate Bill 194 would make indecent assault a Class A misdemeanor — with a maximum one-year jail sentence and $4,000 fine — for groping the private areas of another person; rubbing genitals and other private areas against somebody else; removing or trying to remove clothing covering another person’s private parts; and causing someone to touch the blood, semen, vaginal fluid, saliva, urine or feces of another person.

Under current Texas law, groping and similar acts are a fine-only offense with a maximum penalty of $500. Supporters of the change say a fine is an insufficient deterrent and gives police and prosecutors little incentive to pursue offenders.

The bill returns to the Senate to consider minor House changes.

— Chuck Lindell, American-Statesman

 

REGULATION

House opposes Senate lemonade stand changes

The lemonade stand bill continued to be a spectacle in the Texas House on Wednesday as members successfully shot down a move to immediately accept Senate changes.

House Bill 234, which landed in the hearts of House members and caught the eye of the public when an 8-year-old testified in favor of it before a House panel earlier this year, would let children run a lemonade stand without licenses, permits or fees, including in a homeowners association. A Senate revision would let HOAs restrict stands if the child is not a residence of the association.

Bill author Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, told the House that he would agree to the change, calling it necessary, but Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, spoke up.

“One of the reasons we have this bill is that we wanted the children to be left alone,” Wu said. “We don’t want cops going up to them, we don’t want neighborhood security going up to them, we don’t want the HOAs sending their goons to go see them.”

House members traditionally boo and hiss when a bill author moves to agree with the Senate changes; this time, the body got its way. Krause, having lost control of his own bill, deferred to his colleagues.

“Well, let me hear from y’all. Should we?” Krause asked the body, which erupted into a chorus of nos, then “USA!”

The House having spoken, they then began to cheer for Wu to be placed on the committee to negotiate changes with the Senate, again successfully.

“I hear there’s an open space in the Freedom Caucus,” Wu said, referencing Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who left the hardline conservative House group earlier this month and is known for his antics on the House floor.

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, author of the Senate provision, told the American-Statesman that there would be an agreement in conference committee.

— Renzo Downey, American-Statesman