On Monday, the Texas House of Representatives Constitutional Rights and Remedies committee voted to pass SB 6, a bail reform bill, that would change the bail bond system after someone is arrested.
SB 6 states that non-profit organizations would not be able to post the bail for misdemeanor or felony offenders who are charged with or have been previously convicted of certain violent offenses.
The bill passed without the non-profit provision, after House representatives criticized the bill for targeting charitable organizations.
This means that many defendants would have to use bail bondsman, a privatized million dollar industry to make bail instead of non-profit or charitable organizations.
The bill also states that the presiding judge of an administrative judicial region would be able to suspend an organization’s ability to post bail bonds if the organization violates a reporting requirement or other mandate of the bill.
In June, Texas House Republicans, the Texas Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott all voted in favor of blocking non-profit organizations, even with Democratic opposition.
But at a hearing for the bill on Saturday, many state representatives had issues on the cash bail provisions.
Author of the bill Rep. Reggie Smith (R, TX-62) defended the bill and said it’s important to regulate organizations who are helping defendants post bail.
“SB 6 is not a means to imprison low level or indignant offenders,” Smith said. “Instead this legislation is focused on meaningful reforming the bail system to insure a balanced and individual process.”
However, even some Texas Republicans are in opposition of the provision in the bill.
“If this is just a way to pay the bail bondsman, let’s just say it,” Rep. Charlie Geren (R, TX-99) said. “I have a problem with different standards from the for profit bail bond and charitable organizations.”
Rep. Travis Clardy (R, TX-11) also said, if passed, this provision could face a legal action in court.
“This continues to deeply trouble me not just because there is some patent unfairness to it, but I think it also walks us into a potential constitutional challenge under an equal protection argument,” Clardy said. “Why is this charitable organization and their money treated differently than anybody else on the planet?”
Many Texas Democrats are back at the Capitol after breaking quorum in June to stop Republicans from passing SB 1, a voter suppression bill that would ban 24-hour voting, drive-thru voting, and limit mail-in ballots.
In addition to Republicans, Rep. Ann Johnson (D, TX-134) said this provision would disproportionately affect communities of color and could lead to mass detention.
“This is a bill that will push a massive group of people back into the surety bail system,” Johnson said. “There is no correlation between public safety and cash bonds.”
Gov. Greg Abbott put bail reform as one of his key priorities in this second special session which is set to end Sept.7.
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