New law increases penalties for protesters
Gov. Greg Abbott enacted a bill on Tuesday that targets protesters and restricts cities’ ability to cut police budgets.
In a ceremony attended by state law enforcement associations and drafters, Abbott signed four Republican-backed bills aimed at widespread protests against the killings by the black and Hispanic police and calls for cuts in law enforcement spending.
House Bill 9, a priority bill for the lower house, imposes jail time for people who knowingly block emergency vehicles or hospital entrances after an incident in California last September in which the Department of Sheriff said protesters blocked a police car with two injured officers from entering a hospital.
Likewise, House Bill 2366 makes it a crime to use fireworks to interfere with official police activity or to use laser pointers to injure officers. Before the bill, the use of a laser pointer was only an offense.
Critics decried the two bills as too punitive, while Abbott and other supporters called them necessary to keep law enforcement safe.
The remaining bills create two new barriers for large cities to reduce their law enforcement budgets. Abbott called the police budget cuts “really dangerous” and “a reckless move” in a press release after the legislation was signed.
While calls to “spend the police” can mean several things, they usually include reallocating money to other social services or investing in alternative public safety programs.
Last August, Austin city council voted to cut and reallocate one-third of its police department’s $ 434 million budget. Some of the money was redirected to violence prevention and access to food programs, while other funds were cut so that tasks such as forensic science and victim services can be transferred to other departments.
Abbott criticized the move, saying at the time that it “paves the way for anarchy.”
Under the House Bill 1900, if a municipality with more than 250,000 people cut its law enforcement budget, the state would deduct money from its sales tax and prohibit the city from increasing property taxes. or utility charges. All areas annexed over the past 30 years could vote to remove the annexation, and the municipality would be prohibited from annexing other areas.
Senate Bill 23 applies to counties with more than one million people, requiring them to hold elections before cutting or reallocating their law enforcement budgets. Counties that do so without voter approval would see their property tax revenues frozen.
Both bills make exceptions for budget cuts in the face of disaster declarations, and HB 1900 also exempts municipalities that only cut their law enforcement budgets by the same percentage as they cut their overall budgets.
Also on Abbott’s desk, there are bills that ban unnecessary police strangling and require officers to administer first aid and keep their body cameras on throughout the investigation.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texatribune.org/2021/06/01/texas-abbott-defund-police-protest/.
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