Earlier this week, The Kerrville Daily Times reported on a bill filed by Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, that would require quarry operators to initiate land reclamation efforts after a site ceases to be operational.
But it’s not the only bill Murr has filed that seeks to help fill a big hole — House Bill 4303 would amend state government code to allow Kerr County county officials to appoint a magistrate to set bonds, appoint a public defender and issue search warrants, among other duties.
That bill moved on to committee Monday, coming one step closer to being law.
It’s a good bill, but you don’t have to our word for it. Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer is also a fan.
“We started looking at appointing magistrates, and how they can be appointed, other than elected justice of the peace and elected judges,” he said during a Kerr County Commissioners Court meeting last month, during which he championed the proposal before the court.
And, according to Hierholzer, there’s a real need for an additional magistrate because bail bonds are not being issued with consistency. He cited a $500,000 bond issued for a first-time offender accused of theft, in contrast to a smaller bond for aggravated assault.
Bail bond reform is a real issue, not only here in Kerr County but across the Lone Star State. Recently, courts have issued rulings calling Dallas and Harris Counties’ bail practices unconstitutional.
Efforts at reform failed the last time the Texas Legislature took it up in 2017.
But things are looking up.
Murr and State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, recently announced they have filed legislation — HB 1323 — that would implement a risk-assessment tool for judges and magistrates to use when making bail decisions, among other proposals.
Joining them in support of the legislation are the state’s two top judges, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht — who has publicly called for a change to Texas’ system for years — and Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, according to information from the Texas Tribune.
The American justice system is a fine thing — but it isn’t perfect. It should, however, at least be fair and equitable. In many Texas counties, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Rep. Murr’s efforts to help ensure Kerr County isn’t among that number are praiseworthy indeed.