Ensuring public safety and protecting members of law enforcement and emergency personnel was a central focus for the 87th Legislature. In response to calls to defund police departments throughout the country, HB 1900 and SB 23 will restrict the ability of local governments from decreasing public safety budgets. Several additional highlights of the session include protecting victims of violent crimes and sexual abuse, ensuring the safety of citizens by banning public camping, and increasing penalties for obstructing emergency services.
Protecting Public Safety by Limiting Local Governments’ Ability to Defund the Police - HOUSE BILL 1900 and SENATE BILL 2300 are both “back the blue” bills, but operate in different ways. HB 1900, which applies to cities with a population of more than 250,000 that defund the police, prevents those cities from raising property taxes and reduces their local sales tax revenue to the extent the state has to increase spending in the city to protect the public. SB 23, on the other hand, applies to counties with a population of more than one million and requires such counties to obtain voter approval before defunding the police. The two bills will help keep Texans safe at a time when a vocal minority across the country is making ill-advised proposals to cut police funding even as crime increases.
Damon Allen Act - SENATE BILL 6 makes it clear that a defendant may be denied bail as expressly permitted by the Constitution and directs the Office of Court Administration to develop a public safety report system for each defendant. The bill eliminates personal bond for a person accused of committing a violent offense and requires a safety report if a magistrate is considering the release on bail of a defendant who is charged with a Class B misdemeanor or more serious offense.
HOUSE BILL 766 ensures that victims, law enforcement, and courts have access to information on conditions of bond for certain defendants charged with violent crimes. The bill implements a requirement for information to be entered into the Texas Crime Information Center (TCIC).
HOUSE BILL 375 establishes the same criminal penalties for continuous sexual abuse of a child for the continuous sexual abuse of a person with a disability, protecting an extremely vulnerable population.
HOUSE BILL 465 prohibits individuals convicted of certain continuous human trafficking offenses involving children from being eligible for parole.
HOUSE BILL 1925 bans public camping and creates a Class C misdemeanor if a person knowingly camps in a public place without authorization, and preempts any conflicting local rules.
HOUSE BILL 9 protects public safety, emergency services, and personnel by increasing the penalty for intentionally or recklessly blocking an emergency vehicle operating its lights or sirens or blocking a hospital entrance to a state jail felony. This bill respects the right to peacefully protest while protecting public safety.
SENATE BILL 768 creates a new group of controlled substances and increases penalties specifically for manufacture or delivery of fentanyl and its derivatives, with the penalties ranging from a state jail felony to a first-degree felony.
HOUSE BILL 9 (87S(2)) makes $1.8 billion in appropriations for border security for additional personnel to support border security operations, increased staffing and travel expenses, court interpreters, and correctional security operations.