Gov. Greg Abbott released his budget for the 2022-23 biennium on Feb. 5, closely aligning his priorities with the emergency items he named in his State of the State Address. The proposal is a policy document, rather than an appropriations bill. Here are quotes from Governor Abbott’s proposal on selected budget priorities that are relevant to county officials:
Provide additional body cameras to peace officers – “I recommend the 87th Legislature fund a grant program managed by the Public Safety Office within the [Office of the Governor] to award funding to eligible law enforcement agencies to purchase body cameras for their officers.” Both House and Senate baseline budget bills include a $15 million grant program.
Provide law enforcement access to training – Two recommendations:
“I recommend the 87th Legislature require the training peace officers need to effectively protect Texans and increase funding for grants so local departments can access such training.”
“I recommend the 87th Legislature fund additional curriculum developers at [Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE)] to provide current, robust, and beneficial training for peace officers.”
Both the House and Senate include a 5% cut in funding for local law enforcement continuing education and training funds appropriated to Comptroller-Fiscal Programs and a 6.5% cut in total funding for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE). TCOLE is going through sunset review, and if continued by the 87th Legislature, the commission may receive a funding increase.
Ensure safety in the capital city – “I recommend the 87th Legislature authorize the Capitol Complex Safety Zone to protect people and property and to ensure local funds are made available to fund the effort.”
Reform the Bail System – “I recommend the 87th Legislature provide funding to the [Office of Court Administration] for the development and implementation of a statewide pretrial risk assessment tool for use in making bail determinations, as well as for appropriate training.”
SB 2 Disaster Exemption – “I recommend the 87th Legislature reform this provision of current law. The authority to exceed the voter-approval rate should only be available to cities, counties, and special districts that have suffered physical damage due to a disaster. I further recommend the 87th Legislature provide voters with the ability to ratify temporary property tax increases following a disaster before they become a permanent part of the tax burden going forward.”
Election Integrity – “I recommend the 87th Legislature continue and expand the use of county election security trainers. I further recommend the 87th Legislature provide additional funding to the [Secretary of State] to expand the Election Day inspector program to the early voting period.”
Create New Business Courts – “I recommend the 87th Legislature approve the creation of business courts, including the court of business appeals, to ensure that complex business disputes will be heard by judges with specialized expertise and knowledge.”
Expand Access to Broadband – “I recommend the 87th Legislature continue to invest in broadband initiatives that will help expand access to high-speed internet in unserved areas across the state.”
Ensure a Rapid Disaster Response – “I recommend the 87th Legislature appropriate a total of $150 million to the Disaster Fund so the state remains ready to respond to the next disaster.” The House funds this item at $30 million over the biennium – the amount of the expected unexpended balance (UB) in 2020-21 appropriations for disaster assistance. SB 1 provides $110 million – the $30 million in UB plus $80 million in new funding.
For more information on this article, please contact Zelma Smith.