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News

by Maurice Chammah
Texas Tribune
December 13, 2012

A proposal for the upcoming legislative session is resuscitating a debate that goes back to the writing of the Texas Constitution in 1876.

The bill, authored by state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, would abolish the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court for all criminal matters, and bring all criminal cases under the Texas Supreme Court, which now hears only civil and juvenile cases.

Texas and Oklahoma are the only two states with their highest courts divided between civil and criminal jurisdictions, though others have considered it as a means to deal with large case backlogs. Last year, lawmakers in Florida considered splitting the state’s Supreme Court, particularly to deal with a growing list of death penalty appeals, but a political battle killed the proposal.

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Dallas Morning News
Robert T. Garrett/Reporter

All fees, surcharges and other revenue-raising measures would be classified officially as taxes under a state constitutional amendment proposed today by a veteran House Democrat.

Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, said his “honesty in taxation” measure would prevent politicians — if they peppered taxpayers with higher fees for things like driver’s licenses, hunting licenses and copies of birth certificates — from claiming they balanced Texas’ budget without raising taxes.

“The truth is, if you raise fees, you raise taxes,” said Raymond, vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

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