On the surface, the bill by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, seems complex, but she said it essentially brings Texas in compliance with last year's Supreme Court ruling that found sentencing 17 year olds to a life sentence without parole was unconstitutional.
Since Texas treats 17 year olds as adults and allowed life without parole, that came in conflict with the Supreme Court ruling. This new law would mean that 17 year olds will face a mandatory maximum that is in line with 14 and 16 year olds.
"We have in law that if you are between 14 and 16 [years old] and you are convicted of a capital crime that you get mandatory life with parole consideration in 40 years. We had changed that a couple sessions ago," Huffman said.
Some on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee felt that parole after 40 years was virtually the same as a life sentence, but Huffman defended the fairness of her bill.
The bill passed out of the Senate committee and will be voted on by the full Senate this Friday.