Public safety issues are a priority at the State Capitol this spring. With forty-six days left in the session, several high-profile bills are moving through the legislative process:
- HB 1900 (Goldman) and HB 2362 (Harris) prevent municipalities from cutting law enforcement budgets. Any local cuts in four areas (general budget, officer positions, overtime, or training budget) will result in various penalties, such as loss of annexation power and lower tax rate caps. Both bills were reported favorably from the House Committee on State Affairs.
- HB 1925 (Capriglione) is a statewide homeless camping ban. The bill was reported favorably from House State Affairs last week. A companion, SB 987 (Buckingham), was heard in Senate State Affairs on Monday.
- SB 23 (Huffman) triggers a mandatory local election to approve law enforcement budget cuts. If passed, cuts to a police department’s general budget, officer positions, overtime, or training budget, trigger an election to approve the reductions. The bill passed the Senate yesterday (28-2).
- HB 20 (Murr), also known as the Damon Allen Act, reforms the Texas prison bail system. Governor Greg Abbott declared bail reform an emergency item. The bill was reported favorably from House Criminal Jurisprudence last Friday.
- HB 88 (Thompson), also known as the George Floyd Act, is pending in House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee after a public hearing on March 25. The George Floyd Act is a sweeping police reform bill that bans chokeholds, creates a duty to intervene, removes qualified immunity protection, and more.
- The Greater Austin Crime Commission is working with Sen. Dawn Buckingham on SB 1405, which prohibits cutting police forces by more than population decline, and SB 1406 mandating a police training academy if there are more than fifty vacancies in large cities. Both bills have been referred to Senate Jurisprudence.
The legislative session adjourns on May 31.
In late March, the Austin City Council passed a resolution that restarts cadet classes no later than June 7. As part of the resolution, the police department and city staff will complete a “blueprint” and outside consultant recommendations before the training academy begins. City Manager Spencer Cronk can certify progress and bring a budget amendment at an upcoming city council meeting.
P.S. Early voting for the May Special Election begins next Monday, April 19. Election day is May 1. There are eight propositions on the ballot in Austin.