Texas legislatures convened for the new legislative session on January 8th. While they will cover an extensive list of conversations, Holli Jeffcoat’s family is hoping for big reform concerning sexual assault.
“That is a huge reason I wrote ‘Holli’s Bill.’ She was one of the ones who had their lives stripped from them,” said Stets Bryant, Holli’s cousin and author of the Jeffcoat Sexual Assault Justice and Prevention Act.
“Holli’s Bill” seeks to establish a legal definition for sexual assault on all levels, provide support for survivors of sexual assault, and increase punishment for offenders.
In December, James Holland pled guilty for murdering his step-daughter, Holli Jeffcoat. Holland received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The 18-year-old with special needs was pregnant with his child at the time of her murder in 2016.
Related story on Holli Jeffcoat: https://www.everythinglubbock.com/news/local-news/breaking-news-james-holland-pleads-guilty-in-murder-of-special-needs-girl/1665002044
While Bryant authored the act, he brought it to the attention of Senator Charles Perry, of District 28. Perry gave his support and created Senate Bill 194. He said the bill will most likely be discussed in March.
“A large part of the request is already in place, the criminal stuff he spoke to,” he said. “What we are looking into is is there adequate education and awareness to put a kid in this situation? We believe their are programs but we can expand those.”
Perry said he wants to expand funding for educational programs and sexual assault initiatives. He also believes punishments can be stronger for offenders of sexual assaults.
“Obviously a misdemeanor is not as bad as a felony,” Perry said. “Are the penalties strong enough when someone takes advantage of our most vulnerable? Holli was in a special situation and she had some really horrible things done to her.”
Perry said they have to be careful not to replicate laws that are already in place, so they are consulting multiple district attorney’s across the state.
“Our office is trying to vet out the potential push back for legitimate reasons,” Perry said. “Once we coal through those issues getting some push back because they already exist or expand what are currently on the books, we ought to have a bill.”
If little movement is made in the legislative session, Stets said he will take his efforts to the federal level. However, Perry said it could take two to three sessions to see any passage of this bill.