Liberty requires eternal vigilance, to paraphrase a paraphrase of Thomas Jefferson. In Texas that means a need to monitor what our state legislators are up to. Right after their elections were certified, they began filing Bills for the 2021 session.
The Texas Republican Liberty Caucus, and its allies, continue to lead a battle for Liberty in Texas, despite chaotic 2020 election returns and Covid19 government responses disrupting daily life.
Texas RLC 2020-2021 Legislative Priorities include some that have been long-standing goals but adds items not prioritized in the past. Every RLC member, and all Liberty-minded Texans, are encouraged to join their voices in reaching out to state senators and representatives on these items.
Since its inception in 1992, the Liberty Caucus has pushed for Criminal Justice Reforms. Texas RLC chairman Jeff LeBlanc and his wife and state treasurer, Kay LeBlanc, will strive to keep up with these issues, and keep the membership informed, about proposed legislation to make our Criminal Justice system in Texas more fair. The four main issues that fall under Criminal Justice Reform for this upcoming session are:
- No arrest for misdemeanor Class C offenses. These arrests waste police time, taxpayer money, and congest Texas courts and jails when issuing a ticket would suffice.
- Reform Civil Asset Forfeiture laws. Civil Asset Forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to seize property from criminal suspects before a person is convicted of a crime. The RLC believes this to violate the mandate that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The Liberty Caucus wants Texas to join other states that have reformed forfeiture laws. Fifteen states require a criminal conviction before any assets can be seized.
- Bail Reform. Bail Reform was fiercely debated in the last Texas Legislative session, and the Texas RLC thinks Texas needs to keep working on it. Texas needs Bail Reform that will set a presumption of pre-trial, non-monetary, bail bonds for people accused of nonviolent offenses. Anything less enables a different criminal justice system for rich-people than for poor-people.
- Decriminalization of personal use marijuana. Municipal and county laws, and enforcement for use and possession of marijuana in the state, are so varied that this issue has become one that needs clarification. It is inherently unfair that a person in one city would be let go without any charges for possession of a small amount of marijuana, while in a different part of the state a young person with the same amount could have criminal prosecution that would ruin their future. Additionally, legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana could help Texas overcome the budget deficit caused by constriction of the revenue stream during the pandemic.
As far as marijuana laws, the Texas RLC will also push for expanding the current medical marijuana law to allow an increased use of medicinal marijuana. The decision on what medicine a patient can use should be determined between the doctor and patient without unnecessary restrictions from the state. The Texas Compassionate Use Act did not do enough to help people who benefit from use of medical marijuana.
The Covid pandemic, school and business shut downs, mask regulations, and determination of essential businesses, made it clear to many that Texas needs a review of Executive powers granted when a state of emergency is declared. Board member Michael Deffendall will follow any Bills put forward that will clarify use of Executive Powers without consent of our elected representatives.
Equal Parental Rights. Texas RLC wants Texas family law to reflect more equal rights and responsibilities for parents, regardless of gender. We believe that there is currently a gender bias represented in courts that does not reflect the vital role each parent plays in raising children. Parents should share equal custody and equal responsibility for children. West Texas representative to the board, Noemi Fragoso, will follow this thread as it is once again introduced.
Constitutional Carry. The 2020 Republican Platform has a plank that says as a legislative priority, Republicans want to “Restore legal Texas firearms owners’ rights to carry them openly or concealed without a permit, while maintaining the option of a permit for reciprocity purposes.” This is known as Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry. Currently 15 states have this law, or one that specifies that the law applies only to state residents, without issue. Bexar County RLC Chair Teresa Cleghorn, and Vice Chair, Ken Cleghorn, will follow any proposed Constitutional Carry Bill put forward. This same topic has been put forward as a Bill during several other Legislative sessions without ever reaching the floor to be voted upon.
As we go through the session, the RLCTX will keep its members informed of bill movements and committee assignments. In addition to a few days to meet with legislators, we will also be calling on members to testify when needed. Look for updates on our website as well as your email inboxes.