Senator wants citizens to vote on Pardon & Parole Board

In order to allow the Governor to focus on the state’s budget and other official business, Sen. Harry Coates has filed legislation to remove her completely from the parole process.  Senate Joint Resolution 46 would send the issue to a vote of the people in November 2012.  

During the 2011 session, the Legislature passed House Bill 2131 which essentially will remove the Governor from the parole process for nonviolent crimes.  The new law, which goes into effect November 1st, allows the Governor thirty days to consider recommendations for such crimes.  If the Governor takes no action during that time, the board’s recommendation is upheld.  However, the Governor will still have to review the board’s recommendations for violent offenses.

Coates believes there’s no reason for the Governor to be involved in the parole process given all the other responsibilities of that office and the fact that he or she appoints three of the five members of the board. The other two members are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Court of Appeals.

"The Legislature took a step in the right direction this session passing House Bill 2131, but we need to do more to speed up the parole process and make it more efficient,” said Coates, R-Seminole.  “The Pardon and Parole Board is a group of highly qualified experts with backgrounds in criminal justice.  The Governor already has considerable control over the board being that she appoints a majority of the members.  She shouldn’t have to micromanage her appointees and review their decisions.  Removing her from the process will also save her from any political backlash that could come about from her parole decisions.  This is a commonsense issue.” 

SJR 46 must be approved by both the Senate and House during the 2012 session.  If approved by both chambers, it will then be put on the ballot as the Governor does not consider joint resolutions that submit a question to a vote of the people.   

“Giving the Board complete control over the pardon and parole process will save the state money and allow the Governor to focus more time on her primary responsibilities, which are finding ways to strengthen the state’s economy, help attract new businesses to our state and improve the lives of our citizens.”