Texas Senate passes bill requiring cities to get voter approval before cutting police budgets
Texas’s state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would force municipalities to put any proposed funding cuts to local police departments on the ballot before they are implemented.
Senate Bill 23 passed Tuesday by a vote of 28-2, with most Democrats joining Republicans to support it. If passed by the House, the bill would require that local governments “hold an election in accordance with this chapter if the municipality or county proposes to adopt a budget” that cuts police funding, allocates funding from one agency to another or reduces the number of police on a force.
The bill is supported by police unions in the state, one of which told The Texas Tribune that it would have stopped Austin lawmakers, who moved to reduce funding to the city’s police force “when the masses made a run on City Hall and made a call for the defunding of the police” following the police killing of George Floyd last summer.
Left-leaning activists across the country have called for police resources to be shifted toward mental health care and other social services, arguing that an armed response is not appropriate for such situations. Some have called for police departments to be abolished entirely.
“We don’t believe that the opinion of the entire community was reflected in those comments and protests,” a spokesperson for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas told the Tribune.
The bill’s future is uncertain, but the state’s Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) laid the blame squarely at the feet of Austin city officials for its passage.
“The city of Austin is the reason this bill is passing,” he said, according to the Tribune. “Not to send a message, not to be political, but to be sure there’s not another Austin.”