Lawmaker disappointed with killing of Brown County donation program bill

Photo credit: Center for Life Resources

BROWNWOOD, Texas - A state lawmaker told KTXS Thursday he's disappointed his house bill to rein in Brown County Attorney Shane Britton's pre-trial donation program won't come up for a vote.

Rep. Mike Lang filed House Bill 2273 to repeal a statute that allowed county attorneys and commissioners in six counties, including Brown, to collect donations. But the House Calendars Committee nixed the bill on Tuesday night after it unanimously cleared the House Civil and Jurisprudence Committee.

"We had no opposition until we hit the Calendars Committee," Lang said. "You don't really know who votes yes or who votes no because it's closed, it's not open."

Lang's bill targeted a program that operated inside Brown County Attorney Shane Britton's office from 2007-2015. Britton created a donation program where defendants in misdemeanor cases paid him a donation in exchange for a lesser sentence or dismissal.

"It seems simple to most of us, but it should be repealed. It shouldn't even be part of the statue," Lang said.

Britton operated the program under the guise of a pre-trial diversion.

A Houston-based firm audited Britton's office and issued a report last June revealing that from January 2013 to May 2015, 69 percent of his cases don't have any records of dispositions.

The Texas Attorney General ruled last December that Britton's donation program wasn't being carried out within the boundaries of the law.

Brown County Judge Ray West and even Britton himself supported Lang's bill. KTXS requested an on-camera interview with both of them for comment on HB 2273 failing in the house, but they didn't respond to several queries.

Brown County Commissioner Gary Worley testified in Austin last month to support HB 2273.

"Whether it's bad … I don't know, but it probably won't be used for … the foreseeable future anyway," Worley said.

The U.S. Attorney based in Lubbock is investigating the Brown County Attorney for allegations of corruption and bribery related to his donation program.

The last day for Texas lawmakers to vote on bills, unless there's a special election, is May 29.

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