House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Receives Interim Charges

House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Receives Interim Charges

Chairman Herrero dedicated to improving the Texas criminal justice system

Austin, Texas – Today Speaker Joe Straus released the Interim Committee Charges for the 83rd Legislature. The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, Chaired by State Representative Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), will consider policy charges relevant to improving the Texas criminal justice system.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues during the interim to improve our state’s criminal justice system,” stated Rep. Herrero. “We have an opportunity to work toward a sound criminal justice policy that provides justice to the victims, gives offenders a fair process with a hope of rehabilitation, and keeps our families and communities safe.

The House Committee on Jurisprudence will address policies that include sentencing for certain youth offenders, efforts to reduce individuals with mental illness caught in the system and a history of overcriminalization.

“Today approximately 1 in 28 Texans are in our state corrections system. However, this number doesn’t give the whole picture of its affect because it does not include the victims or their families or the families of the offenders. We all have an interest in focusing our efforts on stopping the cycle of crime and protecting our loved-ones from being victims,” added Herrero.

Interim charges are policy issues assigned to each legislative committee by the Texas Speaker of the House to consider and study pertinent issues in preparation for the 84th Legislative Session.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Interim Charges are as follows:

1.      Study the classification of 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system of Texas.

2.      Study the effectiveness of deferred adjudication and orders for non-disclosure in spite of        the many exceptions to the statute. Study extending the use of expunction of criminal records history and non-disclosures to certain qualified individuals with low-level, non-violent convictions. Examine the statutorily allowed but underused non-disclosure and expunction of criminal records, and the use of deferred adjudication.

3.      Study the impact of SB 1289 (83R). Examine the sale of criminal histories that may be    erroneous as well as the lasting impact that arrest records have on individuals who are arrested but not charged or convicted. Assess the need for revision of existing statutes and consider designating an agency responsible for regulating entities involved in the industry.

4.      Examine the association between co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders and parole revocation among inmates from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Review current policies and procedures for incarcerating individuals with a dual mental health diagnosis in both state and county correctional facilities and examine potential remedies within the State’s criminal justice system to ensure that the public is protected and that individuals with a mental health diagnosis receive a continuum of mental health services. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Corrections)

5.      Examine the current pecuniary loss thresholds associated with graffiti offenses. Study the costs of enhancing the penalties associated with the offense of graffiti, as well as a study of pretrial diversion programs that exist in other states and are specific to persons convicted of graffiti offenses. Study the existing Graffiti Abatement Programs in Texas.

6.      Evaluate the approximately 1,500 non-traditional criminal offenses that can be found outside of the Penal Code. Study the feasibility of streamlining these offenses and examine ambiguities in the law. Study the existing use of the Rule of Lenity and Mens Rea requirements in Texas and the benefit of codifying both of these standards.

7.      Examine the utilization of community supervision in state jail felonies and the effectiveness of the state jail in light of its original purpose.

8.      Conduct legislative oversight and monitoring of the agencies and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction and the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 83rd Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the committee should:

a.       consider any reforms to state agencies to make them more responsive to Texas taxpayers and citizens;

b.      identify issues regarding the agency or its governance that may be appropriate to investigate, improve, remedy, or eliminate;

c.       determine whether an agency is operating in a transparent and efficient manner; and

d.      identify opportunities to streamline programs and services while maintaining the mission of the agency and its programs.

Town Hall Meeting focuses on transportation and education reform

By Jimmy Willden | Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 12:17 pm

A Town Hall Meeting was held at the Community Center in Bishop, Texas on Wednesday, Nov. 20. State Rep. Abel Herrero, along with Precinct 2 County Commissioner Joe A. Gonzalez, fielded questions involving issues and concerns that that people in the precinct had.

“We are here today at a town hall meeting that was set up in conjunction with Rep. Abel Herrero’s office. He’s opening the doors to them. One concern that he has, is that he wants to make sure that people feel they have the ability, or that they have a pipeline, to communicate with somebody,” said Commissioner Gonzalez. “Like myself, Rep. Herrero wants to make sure that the people feel comfortable.”

Some concerns that were addressed during the meeting included transportation and the upcoming TxDOT projects in the area; healthcare, especially for the disabled and the elderly; and the recent education reforms and restorations.

“This past session, we were able to increase the funding for public education by restoring the $3.2 billion of the $5.4 billion that was previously cut,” said Rep. Herrero.

These budget cuts, according to Rep. Herrero, lead to the over-crowding of classrooms, and over-testing. Herrero states that the number of standardized tests was fifteen from the student they entered as a freshman to the time that they graduated high school. After this past legislative session, the number has been reduced to just five standardized tests over the course of a student’s time in high school, and these five tests focus solely on the five core classes a student would need to graduate.

“We feel like we’ve been able to free teachers to teach students to learn, and we’ve been able to restore some of the resources and funds necessary to ensure that teachers have the resources necessary to education our children, and provide a first class education, no matter what school they may be attending.”

State Rep Herrero answers questions, hears concerns in Bishop


Rep. Herrero addresses Bishop residents.

By Ryan Rockett

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

CORPUS CHRISTI — State Rep. Abel Herrero discussed public education, street improvements and disability funding with Bishop residents at a town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Herrero held a question-and-answer session in which he fielded questions concerning transportation, education and other community issues at the Bishop Community Center.

Herrero said he wanted to inform residents of the results of the past legislative session as well as hear community concerns.

“As a state representative, I want to make sure I’m doing what I should be doing as an elected official, and that is representing the interests of the constituents,” Herrero said.

Herrero represents the state’s 34th district in the Texas House of Representatives. The crowd of about 20 people included Luis Buentello, field representative for congressman Blake Farenthold, and Nueces County Commissioner Joe Gonzalez.

Herrero also discussed public education improvements. Due to a state surplus, more than $2 billion was restored to the sector after receiving a $5.4 billion cut in 2011.

The state representative said the added funds helped improve the quality of education.

“(The funds) ensured teachers are no longer in overcrowded classrooms and made sure there’s a reduction in number of standardized tests so that every child, no matter what district they’re in, are receiving a first-class, quality education,” Herrero said.

Resident Christy Gonzalez said the reduction of standardized tests in schools this year was a boon to the community.

“Our kids are under a lot of pressure with those tests,” Gonzalez said. “It was good that they listened to the voices of the teachers around here.”

County Commissioner Joe A. Gonzalez said though the added funds helped, more needs to be done in the public education sector.

“It’s a shame we lost $5 billion and only got back half,” Gonzalez said. “That’s not enough. … Our classrooms are crowded; we’re still short of teachers.”

When an elderly woman voiced her struggle with applying for disability due to the high value of her assets, Herrero said he will discuss the issue with congressman Farenthold’s office.

“That’s a federal provision that we’ll work with the congressman’s office to try to address,” Gonzalez said. “At the state level we’re trying to do what we can.”

Gonzalez mentioned several city-improving initiatives including increased lighting in poorly lit neighborhoods and a proposed new door-to-door bus system to transport Bishop residents to areas around Corpus Christi and Robstown at a discounted rate.

“It’s going to save you money and be a lot better for you guys,” Gonzalez said.

Since the Texas Legislature meets in odd-numbered years, the next legislative session won’t begin until January 2015. Herrero said state representatives will research state issues in the interim.

Gonzalez said he was appreciative of the state representative’s visit and said it was important to maintain lines of communication between representatives and residents.

“These are the things we need to have on a regular basis,” Gonzalez said. “It takes all of us to make things work.”

On The Record

Dear Friends,

I’m proud to be running a campaign that focuses on the real issues that our community faces today.

Connie’s attack ads make claims that simply aren’t true. She’s trying to muddy the waters just to rack up political points.

I voted to improve the quality of care at nursing homes and to ensure access to healthcare for our seniors. I stood with teachers to fight against unfunded mandates and keep our kids safe in classrooms. While Connie continues her false claims about benefits, she fails to mention that I have not qualified for a dime in pensions from the state.

I stand by my voting record. Will Connie stand by hers?

Within the same breath of saying she would prioritize public education, she inflicted harmful cuts on our neighborhood schools. Connie’s votes cut over 11,000 teachers’ jobs, overcrowd classrooms with more students, and spend another 90 million dollars on standardized tests.

Connie needs to stop running from her record, and tell the truth about mine. I have confidence that you will see through her dishonesty and hold her accountable.
I ask for your vote on Election Day.

Abel Herrero

Texas Parent PAC Endorses Abel Herrero For Election to Texas House District 34

Parent organization says voters should elect a proven leader with legislative experience
to advocate for families and public education at the Capitol

AUSTIN—The bipartisan Texas Parent PAC today announced its endorsement of Democrat Abel Herrero of Robstown for state representative in the newly-drawn House District 34 in Corpus Christi and West Nueces County. Herrero previously served three terms as state representative.

“Voters should elect Abel Herrero and send him back to Austin, because they need an effective legislator who understands that quality education is the key to economic prosperity in the region and state,” said Texas Parent PAC chair Carolyn Boyle. “Incumbent legislator Connie Scott voted to cut about $30 million in state funds from the budgets of school districts in District 34, and that was irresponsible,” Boyle added. The budget cuts prompted increased class sizes, layoffs of valued educators and staff, and elimination of programs needed for student success and enrichment. Scott’s budget vote cut state funding by an average of about $317 per child in area schools.
House District 34 includes all or parts of 10 independent school districts: Agua Dulce, Banquete, Bishop, Calallen, Corpus Christi, Driscoll, London, Robstown, Tuloso-Midway, and West Oso ISDs. Neighborhood public schools are a source of pride in every community of the district.

During his service in the Texas Legislature, Herrero was vice-chair of the Human Services Committee and a member of committees on Appropriations, Redistricting, Agriculture and Livestock, and Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations. He also was vice-chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
Herrero is a role model for area children, demonstrating that hard work and a good education are the keys to success. He graduated as valedictorian at Robstown High School and then earned a bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University and a law degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Today he is an attorney with Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams in Corpus Christi. Earlier, he was elected to serve on the Robstown City Council for two terms.
Abel and his wife, Matilda, have five children. He has a long history of service in his community, schools, and the surrounding area.

Texas Parent PAC was created in 2005 by parents who joined together to elect state legislators who will stand up for schoolchildren. It is recognized as one of the state’s most successful political action committees.

School supporters are encouraged to visit to learn more about his candidacy. Early Voting continues through Friday, November 2, and Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. More than 1,200 families, business leaders, and public school supporters have contributed to support Texas Parent PAC’s grassroots campaign efforts. The parent organization describes its endorsed candidates as “men and women of integrity, open and responsive to parents, actively involved in their communities, and committed to investing in public education to achieve economic prosperity in Texas.”

Politics is No Charm the Third Time Around in HD-34

This has happened before. Twice.

State Rep. Connie Scott, R-Robstown, who lost to Democrat Abel Herrero in 2008 and then beat him in 2010, is facing the former state representative once again.

The votes have been close. She got 46.9 percent to his 53.1 percent in 2008. Two years later, without a presidential race driving turnout and with a Democratic president suffering a bad midterm election, Scott was on the winning side, with 55 percent of the votes to Herrero’s 46 percent.

Now it’s Scott playing defense and Herrero challenging. The lines in this Nueces County district — HD-34 — were redrawn in redistricting last year, to the Democrat’s advantage. And it’s a presidential year, with the larger turnout that arguably helped Herrero against Scott in 2008. Barack Obama narrowly lost in the old district in 2008; he got 52 percent in the area covered by the new one.

Fewer than a dozen Texas House races are still in play in this year’s election. After redistricting, most districts belong either to the Republicans or the Democrats, and the November contests are less consequential than the primaries. But HD-34 is one of the few that could go either way, depending on turnout and how the candidates perform. Republicans are already assured of a large majority in the House next year; Democrats are trying to win enough seats to keep a meaningful minority in the legislative conversation.

The issues have changed. Scott, like most Republicans in the Legislature, voted last year for a budget that cut education funding by falling short of the amount needed to take enrollment and growth and inflation into account. That same budget included funding for standardized tests in public schools — an unexpectedly treacherous issue in several elections around the state.

She’s hitting him for older budget votes in favor of raising pay for judges — a number that is the basis for legislator’s pensions — and for voting against a tax deduction for small businesses. Herrero voted against increasing the deduction from the state franchise tax to $1 million, which allowed companies making less than that to escape paying. The pension vote applies to lawmakers who are eligible for pensions, which requires at least eight years in office; neither Herrero, with six years, nor Scott, with two, yet qualifies.

He says Scott voted to cut Medicaid reimbursements to doctors and other providers, forcing some to drop out of providing coverage to Medicaid patients. She says he voted to create a “quality assurance fee” at nursing home — her campaign calls it a “granny tax” — as part of a package that was designed to raise reimbursement rates for those providers. The nursing homes were for it, but Gov. Rick Perry tagged it with that name and helped kill it. Herrero was among those in favor of the fee.

Herrero is a lawyer and served on the Robstown City Council before running for the Legislature in 2004.

Scott owned a small pipeline company and helped direct the Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, which helped pull her into politics.

“I will never support a tax increase to fund the state budget shortfall and instead will demand state agencies reduce spending,” she says on her campaign website. That position is popular with fiscal conservatives but also forms the basis for the Democrat’s attacks on her.

Herrero says the difference between this race and the two previous ones is that Scott is an incumbent now. “She has a voting record,” he says. “Before, she could say whatever she wanted. Now she has to take responsibility for what she has done.”

In his TV spot, he talks about “thousands” of teacher jobs lost because of the 2011 budget vote; in the 10 school districts in the legislative district, he says, about 200 teachers lost their jobs. In his view, the race is a referendum on the incumbent.

Scott didn’t answer a request for an interview. Her consultant, Eric Bearse, concedes this district is more Democratic than the old one, but also says Scott is “the kind of Republican who can hold onto a seat like this” because of her involvement in civic affairs in the area. She and her husband are well known for their community work, according to Bearse, and that helps in the political realm.

And, Bearse says, she’s not the only candidate in the race with a record; specifically, he’s pointing at the Herrero votes on the state franchise tax and on nursing home fees highlighted in Scott’s ads.

The political demographics favor the Democrat. Money favors the Republican. In the latest campaign finance reports, Herrero reported holding $25,655 in his campaign accounts to Scott’s $255,629. From July through September, she spent $125,430 to his $69,722. As of this week, he was running his first television spot, while she was running her third.

It’s a close race, as reflected in the sentiments of the local media. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times gave its endorsement to Herrero, barely, saying either of the candidates would be good for the area and saying nice things about both him and Scott before leaning in the Democrat’s direction.

Another pre-election “conversion” for education

A story this morning in the Corpus Christi Caller had this ominous-sounding lead: “Republican State Rep. Connie Scott wants to finish what she started in 2010.” It is ominous because if Scott gets to finish what she started, our public schools, educators and students will be in for more trouble.

Scott unseated former State Rep. Abel Herrero, an effective advocate for public education, two years ago. Then she joined the governor and the short-sighted legislative majority in slashing $5.4 billion from public school budgets, including, according to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), an estimated $29 million from the Nueces County school districts that she purported to represent.

Statewide, 25,000 school employees – including almost 11,000 teachers – lost jobs, and thousands of students were crammed into overcrowded classrooms. Teacher losses in Nueces County were about 200, according to TEA. Some Texas districts even started charging for bus rides, and others were forced to close neighborhood schools.

Now, in a pre-election overture, Scott is claiming that she is “committed to improving public education.”

But, folks, someone who is truly committed to improving public education doesn’t vote, as Scott did, to slash $5.4 billion from the public schools while leaving several billion dollars of taxpayer money sitting, unspent, in the Rainy Day Fund. The main thing Scott is committed to is catering to the tea party-types who would privatize public education for the wealthy and put everyone else’s children into nineteenth century, one-room schoolhouses.

Abel Herrero is running again for his old House seat in District 34. TSTA is supporting him against Scott because Herrero actually is committed to improving public education. He, unlike Scott, has the record to prove it.

Sparks fly a Northwest Business Association candidate forum

ROBSTOWN-Area candidates had the opportunity to say what set them apart from their opponents during a candidate forum held at last week’s Northwest Business Association luncheon.

District 34 State Rep. Candidate Abel Herrero said early on that the area’s best interests are not being served in Austin.

‘Whether you talk about public education, access to healthcare for seniors, or windstorm insurance rates, if you look at my opponent’s voting record, you will see that the best interests of this district are not being represented,” Herrero said. “I’m very disappointed my opponent isn’t here. I understand campaign season is difficult, so I’m taking this time to challenge my opponent to a debate.”