House Passes Increase In Legal Age

A joint session of the House and Senate gather in the House Chambers for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott delivering his State of the State address, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Stephen Spillman)

A bill seeking to raise from 17 to 18 the age at which offenders automatically enter Texas’ adult legal system, has been approved by the Texas house.

Thursday’s vote sends the proposal by Houston Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton and several bipartisan co-sponsors to the state Senate. A Senate version of the bill is pending in committee but hasn’t yet cleared committee there.

Dutton’s bill isn’t expected to cost the state money in its 2018-2019 budget, but eventually could cost $35-million-plus annually.

Past efforts to “raise the age” stalled in Texas, which leads the nation in executions and relishes its tough-on-crime reputation.

But this session’s House bill passed relatively easily, endorsed by youth organizations and criminal justice reform groups, as well as conservatives who want Texas to cut the costs of its prisons.