House Representative

White, James

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 04/19/2017

Chairman James White Lays Out Fines/Fees Omnibus Legislation Seeking Relief for Cycle of Debt

(Austin, TX) - This past week, I was able to lay out one of the bills on my priority list. House Bill (HB) 3729 would put an end to the cycle of debt and jail time for people who cannot afford to pay their fines for Class C misdemeanors. Every day, I hear heartbreaking stories of indigent people trying to make ends meet being rounded up and taken to jail because of an outstanding fee. I cannot in good faith stand by a system that penalizes people for being poor. Even more ridiculous, these people sit in jail costing taxpayers at least $60 per day. This is not fiscally conservative or compassionate.

This past week I heard a story of a 57 year old disabled woman who owed $790 dollars on three traffic tickets. She went to her municipal court to try and work out a solution with the judge. A man who was standing behind her in line overhead the conversation in which the judge offered that the woman perform 78 hours of community service. Due to her disability, there was no way that even this offer from the judge would not be a tremendous imposition on this woman. The man standing behind her in line, however, was so moved by her circumstances that he opted to pay for all her outstanding fines. I thank this man for his initiative in finding relief for this citizen.

HB 3729 would empower judges to reduce, waive fines, or when appropriate assign community service for these citizens who simply cannot afford it. There is no purpose in having a system that increases the debt of our Texas citizens and results in a higher property tax burden for other Texas taxpayers.

Following up on fines and fees, I also authored a study bill that would look at the current charges our juveniles and their parents face in the juvenile justice system. HB 2907 was heard in the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee and would look at the adjudication of juveniles charged with misdemeanors punishable by fine only.

Another priority bill I am working on is HB 2863; this legislation looks at protecting the confidentiality of records maintained by the juvenile justice department. Last session, I passed HB 431 which created an advisory committee to study Chapter 58 of the Family Code and make its recommendations to the Legislature. This created the Juvenile Records Advisory Council (JRAC) who suggested the changes outlined in my bill this session. I am proud to push this bill that protects our juveniles, incentivizes confidentiality, and promotes rehabilitation within the juvenile justice system.

In addition, I was able to discuss before the committee two of my bills, HB 41 and HB 554, that add two additional fireworks seasons. Last session, I passed similar legislation and intend to do the same for the Juneteenth and Labor Day holidays. I am particularly excited to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday and have received many calls urging me to include this community-wide celebration as part of our current fireworks seasons.

Our Texas history is something that is very important to me. During this week’s hearing in the committee on Culture, Recreation, & Tourism, I laid out HB 1359 that protects our American and Texan monuments and memorials who may be subject of removal or alteration. I believe wholeheartedly that we must preserve our history and ensure that future generations learn and appreciate the past.

The Capitol of Texas belongs to you and visiting the Capitol during the biennial legislative session is a great experience. To assist in arranging your visit please call Saul Mendoza, my Chief of Staff, at (512) 463-0490 or at saul.mendoza@house.texas.gov.