Twiiter / DanPatrick
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he'll refuse to take up debate of a bill passed by the House to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession.
Members of the Texas Legislature are calling bullshit on Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's claim
that the Senate won't even debate a House bill passed Monday with bipartisan support that would lower penalties for pot possession.
"I think it's going to require some Republicans around the state coming to him to say how they feel," said Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio. "If the bill had bipartisan support on [the House] side, it has it here too. The same people elected us."
House Bill 63, penned by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, would switch possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to Class C — the equivalent of a traffic ticket. Those cited would pay a fine but not face jail time.
Moody designed the measure to survive the scrutiny of Gov. Greg Abbott, who would need to sign it into law. During his 2018 reelection campaign, the governor said he was open to tweaking drug laws to keep low-level offenders out of the prison system.
But the prospect of getting the bill to Abbott's desk seemed to vanish in a puff of smoke Tuesday when Patrick declared on Twitter that the HB 63 is "dead in the @Texas Senate." Patrick, who controls the body's agenda, added that Criminal Justice Committee Chair John Whitmire had correctly made the call that the proposal wouldn't survive.
Since then, Whitmire has pushed back at Patrick's claim, telling the Austin-Amercan Statesman
he will take up the measure in his committee and fight for its passage.
“I don’t believe it’s dead, and I’m going to do the best I can [to round up support]," said Whitmire, D-Houston. "I’m trying to see if we have the votes in the Criminal Justice Committee to get it to the [Senate] floor.”
In a tweet, Moody praised Whitmire's leadership on the issue, adding, "Not today @DanPatrick."
Menéndez said the measure would have broad voter support. District attorneys across the state, he added, have come out in support of issuing citations instead of jail time to those caught with small amounts of marijuana.
"[The current policy] is bad taxpayer policy," Menéndez said. "It doesn't teach anybody anything, but it just may take a kid who's made one mistake and turn him into a criminal putting him into the justice system."
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