The Texas Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a key bill of the Legislature’s war on opioids that would increase the penalties related to the sale and production of fentanyl, by classifying overdoses from the drug as “poisonings.”
Senate Bill 645 by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would open the door for prosecutors to charge people who make, sell and deliver fentanyl with murder.
The bill would also increase the penalty for making or delivering less than 1 gram of fentanyl from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony. If a person dies from an overdose as a result of that manufacturing or delivery of the drug, that penalty is escalated to a second-degree felony. In 2021, Huffman authored a law that increased penalties for manufacturing or delivering more than 1 gram of fentanyl.
Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dose depending on a person’s body size, tolerance and past usage, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
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Overdose deaths involving fentanyl in the state rose nearly 400%, from 333 people dying in fiscal year 2019 to 1,662 in fiscal year 2021. In Texas, the CDC predicts that more than 5,000 people died of drug overdoses between July 2021 and July 2022.
The Texas Senate on Tuesday gave final approval, on a 19–12 vote, to legislation that would raise the penalty for voting illegally from a misdemeanor to a felony, a priority for Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other conservative lawmakers who have worked to remake the state’s voting laws since the 2020 election, despite the lack of evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas.
Senate Bill 2 heads next to the lower chamber for consideration. If the bill becomes law, a person found guilty could face up to 20 years in prison and more than $10,000 in fines.
The initial debate on the floor Monday between Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, the bill’s author, focused heavily on what constitutes illegal voting. Lawmakers disagreed over whether, under the bill, a person who mistakenly votes illegally could be prosecuted. Democrats pointed to examples such as a person who knows they have been convicted of a felony but doesn’t realize that makes them ineligible to vote or a person who knows they are not a U.S. citizen but does not know that makes them ineligible.
Some lawmakers said they were worried such voters would be prosecuted for “innocent mistakes.”
NELSON: The Texas Senate on Wednesday confirmed former state Sen. Jane Nelson of Fort Worth as secretary of state in a unanimous vote that avoided another embarrassment for Gov. Greg Abbott, whose last three nominations to the position never received confirmation. Nelson, a Republican, served in the Senate for 30 years before deciding not to seek reelection last year.
2024: U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, on Wednesday endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to be the 2024 Republican presidential nominee, calling the Florida governor “a man of conviction” and saying he “unequivocally has made Florida stronger and freer.”
APPEAL: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in an appeal filed Friday, is asking the courts to lift an injunction that stopped the state from conducting child abuse investigations over transition-related medical care for transgender youth. Paxton argued that the families — belonging to PFLAG, an LGBTQ advocacy group — did not suffer injuries as a result of the Department of Family and Protective Services’ investigations.