Texas House advances bill to punish cities that defund police

The Texas House passed a bill on Friday that would punish cities that cut funding for law enforcement.

“As municipalities across this nation are defunding their police departments, are taking money away from the police budgets and putting them elsewhere in their city budgets, this bill makes sure that in the state of Texas, that is not going to be allowed,” said State Representative Craig Goldman, who wrote the bill. “Let’s support public safety in this state. Let’s support our police. Let’s back the blue.”

House Bill 1900 states that if a city with more than 250,000 residents was determined by the governor’s office to have cut police funding, the state can appropriate part of that city’s sales taxes and use the money to pay expenses for state-provided law enforcement services. Affected cities would also be prevented from increasing property taxes or utility rates to make up for the reappropriated sales tax money.

Under H.B. 1900, cities are allowed to cut their police department budgets only if such a decrease is proportionally equal to an overall budget decrease. Approval to cut police funding would also be given if expenses for one year were higher because of capital expenditures or disaster response.

After nearly two hours of debate, H.B. 1900 was preliminarily approved on a 91-55 vote. It still needs a final vote on the House floor before it can move to the Senate. The Senate’s related bill, which would require an election before cities could decrease police funding, passed last month.

The Austin City Council voted last year to move about $150 million away from their law enforcement budget, including a direct cut of $31 million for the police department. The money will go towards other public services, like housing and mental health.

Republican lawmakers point to a rise in homicide and crime rates as a reason to oppose the “defund the police” movement. Governor Greg Abbott, who promised to punish cities that defund police, worked with Goldman on drafting H.B. 1900.