Texas Senate OKs plan to decriminalize truancy

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas Senate has voted to make skipping school no longer a criminal offense for students, following lengthy, sometimes testy debate.

Houston Democratic Sen. John Whitmire's proposal passed 26-5 Wednesday and now heads to the House. It makes truancy a misdemeanor punishable by graduated fines for parents starting at $100.

Current law says students with three unexcused absences in four weeks, or 10 unexcused absences in six months, can face fines up to $500.

Whitmire argued that was too harsh, and got emotional when some Republicans suggested that many law enforcement officials in their home counties support the current system. He further responded that too many officials were "getting enriched" by steep current fines.

The Texas Association of Business and state Supreme Court chief justice Nathan Hecht support Whitmire's plan.

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