(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed eight public safety bills into law on Tuesday. The bills, which received bipartisan support, were designed to enhance penalties for some crimes, provide additional support to law enforcement personnel and local communities, and hold “rogue” district attorneys accountable.
“One thing we all agree upon is the importance of providing resources that will make our communities safer as well as supporting our law enforcement in the state of Texas,” Abbott said.
Abbott first signed HB 28, the Todd-Hoglan Act into law, named after two Texans who were victims of aggravated assault that resulted in paralysis. The bill closes loopholes in state law and enhances penalties for those who commit aggravated assault that result in devastating brain or spinal injuries. Family members of victims and victims impacted by violent criminals tearfully joined Abbott as he signed the bill into law.
He next signed SB 224, which increases penalties for catalytic converter theft, a crime that's increased by 1,200% from 2019 to 2021, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The bill was introduced after an off-duty Harris County sheriff's deputy was shot and killed in north Houston after fighting three men who attempted to steal his truck's catalytic converter. He was with his wife buying food for his sister's birthday party. He shot two of the men before he was shot and later died. His widow, family members and colleagues joined Abbott for the bill signing.
Abbott also signed into law HB 17 to hold elected prosecutors accountable by prohibiting them from refusing to prosecute offenses. He said, “There are some district attorneys in the state of Texas that adopt policies that make public pronouncements that entire classes of crimes will not be prosecuted in their jurisdictions. The role of a district attorney is to enforce the law, not make it. If they want to make state policy, they should run for state legislature.”
The law states that DAs whose policies or practices of refusing to prosecute a class or type of offense constitutes official misconduct, enabling them to be removed from office. It also requires a judge from outside the DA's district to preside over removal proceedings.
Marvin Ryals, president of CLEAT (Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas), representing the El Paso County Sheriff's Association, praised the passage of HB 17. He said the bill “allows citizens to hold DAs accountable.”
“George Soros-backed woke DAs are refusing to do the job they were elected to do by the voters,” he said, by “intentionally and arrogantly refusing to do their constitutional duty by refusing to enforce the laws of Texas.”
“What happens when a DA refuses to bring charges against criminals?” he asked. “Where do the victims go? What do police officers say to victims when the charges are systematically dropped?
“By attempting to undo laws passed by a duly elected legislature, these woke DAs have sent a clear message to the criminals: ‘Don't worry, in Texas your drugs, your illegal weapons, and your crimes won't be prosecuted. Instead, we blame law enforcement officers … for doing their job and protecting the community.'”
Abbott next signed two bills that deal with illegal street racing: HB 2899 and HB 1442. The bills allow law enforcement officers to impound vehicles used in street racing or reckless driving, provide law enforcement and prosecutors with additional tools to go after organized street racing and street takeovers. It creates a new code related to obstructing highways and roadways. The law was enacted after Abbott launched a statewide street takeover task force in major cities statewide.
The governor also signed SB 1004 into law imposing harsher penalties for parolees who remove their ankle monitors and SB 840 to deter and punish violence committed against health-care workers. SB 840 was introduced after two health-care workers were killed at Methodist Dallas Medical Center last October by a violent offender who was on parole for aggravated robbery. It enhances the penalty for assault from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony if the victim is a hospital employee on hospital property.
Abbott also signed SB 22 into law, which allocates $30 million to fund two newly created grant programs designed to aid rural law enforcement agencies. The new law creates the Rural Sheriff's Office Salary Assistance Grant Program and the Rural Prosecutor's Office Salary Assistance Grant Program for counties with a population of 300,000 or less, impacting 236 out of 254 counties. It increases the salaries of sheriffs, prosecutors, and their staff and enables rural counties to hire additional staff, purchase additional vehicles, firearms, and safety equipment.