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Laura Elizabeth Morales, writing recently for the Texas Insider political web site, bemoaned the fact that a bill that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses (“Target: Campus,” May 6, 2009) was not going to get a vote in the Texas House. (OMG – Biff won’t be able to pack his .357 Magnum in existential philosophy class! The inhumanity!)

One legislator said it would have been a distraction from more important bills. But the House, Morales noted, had found time to take up bills like the one dealing with the hunting of feral hogs via helicopter and “even legislation that protects journalists from revealing confidential sources.”

From Static’s lowly, paper-piled perch, there was no “even” to the journalist shield law, except this one: Now, even in Texas, reporters in most situations cannot be forced by subpoenas and prosecutors to reveal their confidential sources. Yes indeed, after passing both houses of the legislature unanimously, the Free Flow of Information Act was signed by even Gov. Rick Perry himself on May 13, and takes effect immediately. That was probably before Perry read last week’s cover story in the Weekly (“Seven Flags Over Texas), a little satire on the guv’s favorite topic, secession. Wonders never cease.

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Getting back to the pistol-packin’-students bill: For a while there, it looked like the proposal might have about as much chance of passing as feral hogs would of getting to pilot ‘copters to hunt down humans. But on Tuesday the Senate approved its own version of the concealed-carry bill through two votes, with a final vote expected on Wednesday. It still has to go back to the House, where 70 co-sponsors weren’t enough, first time around, to get it to a vote on the House floor. Just goes to show, though, there’s more than one way to make pigs fly.


Death Penalty Bill Hangs On

Plenty of legislators and lobbyists could use a spell in the Big House, but, fortunately for them, their mugs aren’t among those in “The Faces of Death Row” by Fort Worth photographer John Holbrook. His exhibit will be on display through Friday in the state capitol’s ground-floor rotunda. Many of the death row portraits first appeared as a photo essay in Fort Worth Weekly (“Our Other Selves,” May 7, 2008).

The show is drawing a lot of attention. More people are viewing the portraits there in one day than have seen them at all his other exhibits put together, said Holbrook, who opposes the death penalty because of his own experiences working on death row cases as an investigator.

It’s a pretty safe bet that the Texas Legislature isn’t going to abolish the death penalty this year. But the House a few days ago passed a “law of parties” bill, also known as the Kenneth Foster Jr. Act. The proposal would eliminate the death penalty as a punishment option for individuals found guilty of taking part in
a capital crime but who did not actually commit murder themselves.

Foster was driving the car in August 1996 when his passenger killed Michael LaHood of San Antonio. In 2007, following a national protest campaign and only six hours before Foster was to be put to death, Perry commuted Foster’s sentence to life in prison.

The question now, as with the concealed-carry bill, is whether there is time to get it through the process before the legislature adjourns. Scott Cobb, president of the Texas Moratorium Network, said the Foster Act has picked up a Senate sponsor and they’re going to give it the old college try – without concealed weapons, of course.

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