Harris County Appeals Ruling Its Bail System Unconstitutionally Keeps Poor People In Jail

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelMay 10, 2017 11:58 am

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Harris County has appealed a federal lawsuit that challenges its bail system.

At the end of April, a federal judge said the system unconstitutionally jails poor people for low-level crimes who can’t afford to make bail payments.

One video played during the original trial shows a judge setting a man’s bond at $5,000 for illegally sleeping under a bridge.

The judge then asks the man if he wants a court-appointed lawyer and quickly catches the irony of his question, calling it a “silly question … If you gotta sleep under a bridge the poor gentleman can’t afford a lawyer, that’s for sure.”

The Harris County Commissioners Court voted four-to-one to appeal the civil rights lawsuit.

They’re also asking Judge Lee H. Rosenthal to push back a May 15 deadline to implement new procedures that take a defendant’s ability to pay bail into consideration when they are charged with a misdemeanor.

Judge Rosenthal gave all parties until 5 p.m.tonight to respond to Harris County’s request for a stay.

A bill to ban straight-ticket voting has passed the Texas House.

It’s been sent to the Business & Commerce Committee, while the Senate’s own legislation to ban straight-ticket voting is in the State Affairs Committee.

As it stands right now, Texas voters can press one button to vote for all the candidates of a single party.

The Texas Tribune’s Alex Samuels says Republican Representative Ron Simmons, one of the authors of this bill,  wants voters to be more engaged.

“He thinks if people have to go down the ballot and make a decision on every race they might be more inclined to research different candidates for smaller races, and they’ll be more inclined to actually be more involved in that voting process,” Samuels says.

Opponents of the bill are concerned it could lead to lower voter turnout, because people might not want to take the time to go through and vote on each individual race. In 2016, more than 60 percent of the total votes cast in the state’s 10 largest counties were straight-ticket ballots.

Texas is one of nine states that allow straight-ticket voting.

And speaking of engaged voters…

A Houston-area high school student credits his win in a recent school board election to new people getting out to the polls.

Houston Public Media’s Eddie Robinson reports a Pearland teenager will be sworn into a new job on the school board just before graduation.

Mike Floyd is 18 years old and, in this weekend’s election, won a seat on the Pearland ISD board of trustees. Floyd says he campaigned as a change candidate – who just happens to be a student.

“I don’t compare myself to Donald Trump a lot, but both of our campaigns brought out people who typically don’t vote which changed the results of the election as a whole. In a local race, winning by 500 votes against a two term incumbent who’s been president for four out of six years, beating by a nine-point margin, that’s pretty big.”

Floyd plans on serving his term while he attends the University of Houston in the fall, where he will major in political science.

Sounds like a fitting major.