Legislators learn about forgiveness, justice at hearing on innocence commission bill
Grits spent much of yesterday at the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which heard legislation calling for creation of an Innocence Commission to study the causes of wrongful convictions. As in the past when this bill has come up, several Texas exonerees testified in favor of the legislation, offering up powerful narratives of injustice that the committee clearly found moving and compelling.
Several legislators expressed astonishment that more exonerees aren't bitter and angry about what happened to them - Rep. Terry Canales said if he were falsely convicted of a terrible crime, he could be legitimately charged with arson upon exoneration because he'd want to "burn down the courthouse." To be certain, some of them do feel that way. But having had the privilege of working with exonerees for several years now in the course of my duties with the Innocence Project of Texas, the grace and aplomb exhibited by most no longer surprises me. Numerous exonerees have said the same thing to me when I've expressed similar views to Rep. Canales: They must forgive those who wronged them, for their own peace of mind. Holding on to anger harms the angry person more than it harms anger's targets, I've been told many times, which is a bit of hard-earned wisdom from which we could all benefit. The Lord's Prayer, an exoneree once told me, asks God to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." He went on to add, though, that it took many years in prison before he realized that forgiveness was necessary for his own, personal tranquility. He could never be happy, never move on with his life, until he forgave those who wronged him. I've never forgotten that conversation and hope I never will. To me, that attitude represents the epitome of Christian charity at a depth so profound I can hardly fathom it.
Action 4 Investigation leads to national debate
An Action 4 News investigation into the food stamp system exposes big problems.
The story reported by Action 4 News Anchor Joey Horta captured national attention after a tax payer revealed what he claims is abuse of the system.
The clerk came forward with a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP account balance of more than $7,000.
According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, known by many as food stamps, SNAP balances rollover from month to month indefinitely.
Rio Grande Valley: People with $7K food-stamp surplus
An investigative report has shown that some people in the Rio Grande Valley are receiving exorbitant amounts of food stamp money, racking up thousands of dollars in unused funds.
“Should there be a limit on how much taxpayers dollars can be given to someone on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?” Action 4 News asks.
“You would think that it would red flag in the system,” he said.
He told the TV station that the local SNAP office told him they couldn’t doing anything about it.
“I had never heard of this issue until you brought it to light,” State Representative Terry Canales told Action 4 News.
People with $7K Worth of Food Stamps? The State Where This Is Happening Might Surprise You
“Should there be a limit on how much tax payers dollars can be given to someone on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program?” Texas’ KGBT 4TV asks in an investigative report on possible food stamp abuse in the Rio Grande Valley.
“One valley man was outraged after finding out how much money some people on government assistance are getting,” reads the report. “Action 4 News uncovers just how many people are on SNAP in the Valley and how much money they are getting.”
The report was helped along by a gas station clerk who had grown tired of seeing customers make enormous purchases with their Lone Star cards. In some cases, he says, people would show up and have a balance of at least $7,000 on their cards.
“There are times I see customers come in and they’ve got thousands,” “Bob,” who spoke on condition of anonymity, told KGBT 4TV.
Two bills filed by South Texas Democrats would prohibit individuals from using the state’s food stamp program to purchase energy drinks and junk food such as candy, chips and cookies.
Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) is a needs-based program to assist Texans who work more than 20 hours a week or are disabled or pregnant buy groceries. More than 4.1 million Texans utilize the program as of December, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Current restrictions on SNAP purchases include alcohol and tobacco products, vitamins and medicines and hot food.
State Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg filed HB 523, which defines “energy drink” as a beverage containing 65 milligrams of caffeine per 8 fluid ounces designed to increase mental or physical energy. Coffee-based beverages are exempt from the restriction.
Legislation filed for creation of University of Texas Super System
Legislation was filed Monday at the Texas Capitol that calls for the creation of a new University of Texas super system, complete with a state-of-the-art medical school, that aims improve life in the Rio Grande Valley, says Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, an author of House Bill 1000.
Under the legislation, UTPA, with an enrollment approaching 20,000, would remain the dominant academic component in the new system, which calls for it to merge with the University of Texas at Brownsville.
The UT System also will commission an independent study to determine where a long-sought medical education dream, the “South Texas School of Medicine”, as currently named by state lawmakers, would be located, Canales said.
(The final name of the medical school and new university system would be determined at a later date by the UT System Board of Regents.)
EDINBURG — Just over a year after stray bullets struck down Harwell Middle School students Nicholas Tijerina and Edson Amaro, state lawmakers have filed legislation addressing similar situations.
State Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Palmview, filed a bill last week that would increase penalties if a bullet from a gun travels onto school property and require the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to create “school zone”-style signage aimed at shooters.
The legislation would make it a Class A misdemeanor for a bullet to travel onto the property of a public or private elementary or secondary school, and a state jail felony if that bullet causes injury or death. It would also add school-zone awareness into hunter safety programs.
“We thought a three-pronged approach would be better than one,” said Muñoz’s chief of staff, Richard Sanchez, in reference to the education, signage and harsher penalties.
Bills seek to take junk food, energy drinks off food stamp program
Two new bills would make it difficult for people who get government assistance to buy for junk food and energy drinks for their kids.
"Energy drinks are potentially dangerous for children," said Texas State Representative Terry Canales of Edinburg.
Canales authored HB 523 which would prevent those on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from buying energy drinks.
"There's nothing nutritious or healthy about these products and in fact they're potentially dangerous to children," Canales said. "We don't believe you should be able to use government funds to buy them."