Texas Governor's Pardon Amendment, Proposition 9 (2011)

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Proposition 9
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Referred by:Texas Legislature
Topic:Admin of gov't
Status:Approved Approveda
The Texas Governor's Pardon Amendment will appear on the November 8, 2011 general election ballot in the state of Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. Approveda

Proposition 9 allowed the governor to grant pardons, reprieves, and commutations to persons who complete deferred adjudication. Under existing law at the time the governor could only pardon convicted felons.

The author of the measure was Royce West. The formal title of the bill was Senate Joint Resolution 9.

Election results

See also: 2011 ballot measure election results
Texas Proposition 9
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 383,803 57.31%
No285,83642.68%

Text of measure

Ballot summary

The ballot text read:

"The constitutional amendment authorizing the governor to grant a pardon to a person who successfully completes a term of deferred adjudication community supervision."[1]

Constitutional changes

See also: Texas Proposition 9 (2011), constitutional text changes

Proposition 9 amended Section 11 (b) of Article 4 of the Texas Constitution.

Fiscal note

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The Texas Legislative Budget Board issued a fiscal note about SJR 9 to the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice on March 15, 2011.[2]

According to the fiscal note:

Administration of government on the ballot in 2011
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  • "No fiscal implication to the State is anticipated, other than the cost of publication."
  • "The cost to the state for publication of the resolution is $105,495."
  • "No fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated."[2]

Support

Arguments

Supporters said:

  • This amendment would correct an existing inequity in Texas law by extending the governor's power to pardon to deferred adjudications, therefore making those with deferred adjudications eligible to have their records expunged. As it stands only those convicted of a crime are eligible to be pardoned by the governor. While deferred adjudications do not show up as convictions in a person's record, they do show up as an arrest and a form of probation - a significant barrier to employment and other life opportunities such as education. This change in the law would open up an avenue for people who have not been convicted of a crime, but received deferred adjudication, to have their records cleared.[3]
  • The amendment would not automatically extend a pardon or expungement to anyone. It would simply allow the governor the option of doing so if the circumstances merited.[3]

Donors

According to the state campaign finance database, there were no registered committees (PACs).

(last updated December 2011)

Opposition

Arguments

Opponents said:

  • This amendment would have the effect of restricting public access to criminal records. Caution should always be used when passing laws that restrict public information access.[3]
  • "Pardons are designed for those who have been convicted of crimes. In cases of deferred adjudication, there is no conviction, so pardons should not be needed."[3]
  • Instead of erasing the record from public memory, potential employers, schools, etc. should be able evaluate the records and make their own decisions as to what to think.
  • We Texans, a limited-government and economic freedom advocacy organization, opposed Proposition 9. In an October 19, 2011 post they explained their reasoning: "The Texas Constitution authorizes the governor to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons following a criminal conviction but does not currently extend that authority to deferred adjudications. The original intent of deferred adjudication was to help the offender avoid having a criminal record. However, orders of nondisclosure are frequently ineffective in preventing the release of arrest and criminal history information in these cases. Consequently, employers and state agencies often treat the deferred adjudication as a conviction for employment and licensing purposes.
  • Proponents of this amendment rightly recognize that there is an injustice in law – convicted criminals can have their records expunged but those who have not been convicted of any crime can not. But there seems to be little indication that this amendment would solve the problem – it is unclear whether a pardon, even if one could be obtained, would expunge the criminal record. There is clearly a failing in statutory law and remedy should be sought there."[4]
  • Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative and pro-family advocacy organization, opposed Proposition 9. In an October 7th, 2011 post they explained their reasoning: "Texans should be cautious about any policy that could result in new restrictions on public access to criminal history record information. Employers, schools, and the public should be able to access this information."[5]

Donors

According to the state campaign finance database, there were no registered committees (PACs).

(last updated December 2011)

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Texas ballot measures, 2011

Support

  • Conroe Courier of Montgomery County said, "Supporters of the amendment believe those who plead guilty of a crime, receive deferred adjudication and successfully complete it should have the same pardon opportunity and have those records expunged as individuals found guilt of a crime. We agree and support Proposition 9."[6]
  • The Dallas Morning News said, "Approving Proposition 9 on Nov. 8 would help ensure that the state’s process for granting pardons is a fairer one."[7]
  • The Austin Chronicle said,"This is unlikely to affect many people, but it resolves an inconsistency in the law."[8]
  • The Corpus Christi Caller-Times said, "The Caller-Times Editorial Board recommends approval of all 10, and urges that all registered voters exercise their right to vote."[9]
  • The Burka Blog, written by senior editor for the Texas Monthly Paul Burka, supports Proposition 9. In an October 18, 2011 post he stated "At last, an amendment that doesn’t offer a tax break or try to avoid our pay-as-you-go system. I’m for it.,[10]
  • The El Paso Times said, "This would level the playing field for people successfully finishing deferred adjudication with those actually convicted of any crime and who can receive pardons from the governor."[11]
  • The Statesman said, "Ten proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution are on the ballot for your approval or disapproval. We recommend you vote for all 10."[12]

Opposition

  • The Lufkin News said, "The Board of Pardons and Paroles has a history of recommending very few pardons. We also have a problem with expunging any criminal history. We recommend a vote against Proposition 9."[13]
  • The San Antonio Express-News said,"Criminal defendants who are granted deferred adjudication and successfully complete their probation have already been given a big break by the criminal justice system; they get no final conviction on their record. They should not be allowed to seek a pardon from the governor and have their criminal record expunged...We recommend that voters reject the proposed amendment."[14]
  • The Star-Telegram opposed Prop 9.[15]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing direct democracy in Texas

The legislation was approved by both the House (135-7 vote) and the Senate (30-1) on May 26, 2011. The proposed measure was referred to the Secretary of State on May 27, 2011.[16]

As laid out in Article 17 of the Texas Constitution, in order for a proposed constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot, the Texas State Legislature must propose the amendment in a joint resolution of both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. The joint resolution can originate in either the House or the Senate. The resolution must be adopted by a vote of at least two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Senate.

Timeline

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The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:

Event Date Developments
House vote May 26, 2011 House voted 135-7 in favor of the proposed measure
Senate vote May 26, 2011 Senate voted 30-1 in favor of the proposed measure
Certified May 27, 2011 Measure received by the Secretary of State for the 2011 ballot

See also

By Jimmy Ardis
Texas state writer

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References