TX senators propose dueling bills that move justice reform backward

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Texas, the land of liberty, proud former republic, happy to be left alone to grill meat and eat tacos until the end of the earth, is supposed to take care of its own and not demand federal government interference, even when times get tough. But that’s exactly what two bills just introduced by the Lone Star State’s senators do. Neither is necessary or advisable, especially in light of justice reform efforts that do the opposite.

After the horrific police massacre in Dallas last weekend, John Cornyn has introduced a bill to make killing law enforcement officers and other public officials a federal crime with a new mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and option for the death penalty. While a reaction of this magnitude is understandable after Dallas and other recent attacks on police, in reality it’s much more of an overreaction.

Killing a police officer is already a capital offense in almost every state that has the death penalty, including Texas. The country is currently debating whether the states and federal government should have the death penalty at all; adding new qualifications for it should be out of the question, especially when states are handling it just fine on their own.

How a state punishes a cop killer, or any other criminal, should be up to that state, not the federal government. Justice reform efforts across the country, including bills in the US House and Senate that Cornyn himself supports, are attempting to move these decisions back to the state level where the details of each case can be considered properly. Why would Cornyn propose new legislation that does the opposite?

Unfortunately Cornyn isn’t alone. His understudy, Ted Cruz, has also proposed a similar bill to add new federal mandatory minimum sentences, this time for immigration violations.

Kate’s Law, cynically named for the victim of a murder by an undocumented immigrant, would increase existing and created new federal mandatory minimum sentences for certain immigration violations. Fortunately it failed to pass a procedural vote recently and is stalled for the foreseeable future.

While Cornyn’s bill flies in the face of his justice reform support, Cruz’s should be less surprising. The junior senator was a vocal supporter of reform efforts in his first couple years in office, but he has since reversed course and taken an unironic “tough on crime” approach. His introduction of Kate’s Law suggests he won’t revert back to a reformer after dropping out of the presidential race…unless he’s holding out for a convention surprise.


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