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Texas is moving to punish major cities that cut funding from their local law enforcement.
The Texas House passed legislation on Friday that would punish cities with populations of 250,000 or more — 11 cities in the state meet that requirement — if they cut funding for their police departments. The legislation follows a warning Republican Governor Greg Abbott made after Austin, Texas, cut $150 million from its police budget.
The House-passed bill is to “ensure that no other cities follow Austin, Minneapolis, and Seattle down the path of defunding the police, which serves no purpose other than making their citizens less safe,” a spokesperson for the governor told KXAN.
The bill will only impact the largest cities in the state; an amendment to apply the bill’s provisions to every town in Texas failed in the House. Republicans control the Texas House and Senate, making the bill’s passage through Congress and eventual arrival on Abbott’s desk likely. If signed into law, the bill would take effect September 1, according to KXAN.
“Let’s support public safety in this state. Let’s support our police. Let’s back the blue,” said state Rep. Craig Goldman (R), who wrote House Bill 1900.
Cities are subject to the penalties in the bill if they are found to have cut funding to their police department, cut the number of police officers, or cut officers’ overtime pay or training versus what the city paid in the preceding year. A city is ultimately designated a defunding city after a review by the criminal justice division of the governor’s office.
A city found to be defunding its police department will be subject to a property tax cap and the cost of state law enforcement services in the city would be deducted from that city’s sales tax revenue.
Abbott celebrated the bill’s passage in a Friday tweet.
“Texas will ALWAYS #BackTheBlue! @GoldmanCraig’s #HB1900 just PASSED in the TX House. This bill cracks down on cities that try to defund police. One step closer to my desk,” Abbott wrote along with a video of him speaking at a GOP convention.
“In Texas, we don’t defund or disrespect our police. We support our law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” Abbott says in the video.
This bill cracks down on cities that try to defund police.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 7, 2021
Austin has been hit with backlash from Texas law enforcement since moving to cut funding from its police department last year. In September 2020, the Texas Municipal Police Association paid to erect two billboards outside of the city warning people coming in that the city had moved to cut some funding from its law enforcement.
“This reckless act, a political stunt by the city council pandering to the radical left, will do nothing but endanger the people of Austin,” the union said in a message posted to Facebook.
“As the largest police association in Texas, it is our duty and responsibility to stand up for the brave men and woman of the APD, as well as the other law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction within the city limits which will have less of APDs resources to depend on, and to raise public awareness of the dangers of defunding not just Austin, but any city across the U.S.,” it added.