Texas: Governor Abbott Signs Public Safety, Border Security Bills Into Law

Governor Greg Abbott this week signed several critical pieces of border security and public safety legislation passed during the 88th Regular Legislative Session at the Texas Capitol.
At the public safety bill signing ceremony on Tuesday, the Governor signed eight bills that will provide additional resources to help ensure the safety of Texans in communities across the state.

Governor Abbott also signed a sweeping package of legislation at a border security bill signing ceremony on Thursday to further strengthen border security operations and expand Texas' unprecedented efforts to hold the line on the southern border.


Governor Abbott Signs Eight Public Safety Bills

On Tuesday, Governor Abbott signed eight bills into law that will help ensure communities across Texas have the resources to support law enforcement, improve criminal penalties for growing classes of crimes, hold district attorneys accountable, along with other measures.

"Today, I am here to sign eight public safety bills from the regular legislative session that serve to protect Texans and hold criminals accountable," Governor Abbott said. "We will sign these bills that rein in the rash of illegal street racing, deter catalytic converter theft, punish criminals who remove ankle monitors, and a law that puts violent criminals behind bars for longer if they leave their victim permanently paralyzed or facing serious brain damage."

Governor Abbott was joined at the bill signing ceremony by Senators Carol Alvarado, Paul Bettencourt, Brian Birdwell, Bob Hall, Joan Huffman, Drew Springer, and Royce West; Representatives David Cook, Frederick Frazier, Stan Gerdes, Ryan Guillen, Jeff Leach, Mihaela Plesa, and Armando Walle; Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas President Marvin Ryals, Texas Municipal Police Association Executive Director Kevin Lawrence, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw, and other public safety advocates.

House Bill 17 (Cook/Huffman) holds elected prosecutors accountable and prohibits the refusal to prosecute offenses. The bill clarifies that the policy or practice of refusing to prosecute a class or type of offence constitutes official misconduct for the purposes of removal from office.

House Bill 28 (Slawson/Birdwell) enhances the criminal penalty for aggravated assault from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony if a deadly weapon was used in the assault and caused a traumatic brain or spine injury resulting in a persistent state or paralysis.

House Bill 1442 (A. Johnson/Bettencourt) provides law enforcement and prosecutors additional tools to go after organized street racing and street takeovers in Texas and elicit more substantial consequences for the perpetrators of these crimes. In February, Governor Abbott announced the launch of a statewide street takeover task force to combat the rise in dangerous street takeovers happening across Texas.

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House Bill 2899 (Plesa/Hall) allows immediate removal of vehicles used in street racing or a reckless driving exhibition from the road for the safety of other drivers. The bill removes the current requirement that a vehicle be impounded only if there was property damage or someone suffered bodily injury and instead allows impounding if the owner is charged with racing on a highway or reckless driving exhibition.

Senate Bill 22 (Springer/Guillen) establishes 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 of Texas' 254 counties. The bill allows for increases in the salaries of sheriffs, prosecutors, and their staff and provides the ability to hire more staff, as well as aid in the purchasing of necessary vehicles, firearms, and safety equipment.

Senate Bill 840 (West/Anchia) deters and punishes violence against healthcare workers in the workplace by enhancing the penalty for assault from a Class A misdemeanor to a third degree felony if the victim is a hospital employee on hospital property.

Senate Bill 1004 (Huffman/Herrero) serves as a deterrent and increases accountability for parolees who have ankle monitors as part of their conditions of release by making it a state jail felony for anyone to tamper with or remove a required electronic monitoring device. This January, Governor Abbott called for legislative action focused on parolees who cut off their ankle monitor.

Senate Bill 224 (Alvarado/Leach) increases the safety of Texans by penalizing the rapidly growing crime of catalytic converter theft, which has increased 1,200 percent between 2019-2021, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The bill enhances criminal penalties for offenses involving a catalytic converter.

Read more about the Governor's public safety bill signing.


Governor Abbott Signs Six Border Security Bills, Announces Deployment Of Marine Floating Barriers

On Thursday, Governor Abbott signed a package of six bills that will expand Texas' unprecedented efforts to hold the line and protect Texans from record levels of illegal immigration, weapons, and deadly drugs pouring into Texas from Mexico caused by President Joe Biden's refusal to secure the southern border.

"Thanks to the leadership and hard work of Director McCraw, General Suelzer, and their teams, Texas has pushed back against the swell of migrants and held the line to keep people out of Texas—but there is more that needs to be done." Governor Abbott said. "Today, I am signing six bills from this year's regular session to ensure that Texas can continue to do even more to stop illegal immigration at our southern border and provide new tools to the brave men and women along the southern border to protect Texans and Americans from the chaos and crisis of the border."

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The Governor was joined at the bill signing ceremony by Senators Brian Birdwell, Cesar Blanco, Pete Flores, and Tan Parker; Representatives Ryan Guillen, Caroline Harris, Tracy King, David Spiller, and Terry Wilson; DPS Director Steve McCraw; Adjutant General of Texas Major General Thomas Suelzer; Zapata County Sheriff Raymundo Del Bosque; Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez; National Border Patrol Council Executive Vice President Paul Perez; and other border security advocates.

During the press conference, Governor Abbott also announced the deployment of new marine floating barriers to deter illegal crossings in hotspots along areas of the Rio Grande River. This strategy will proactively prevent illegal crossings between ports of entry by making it more difficult to cross the Rio Grande and reach the Texas side of the southern border. The first 1,000 feet of the marine floating barrier will be deployed near Eagle Pass.

Senate Bill 423 (Paxton/Wilson, T.M.) provides Texas military forces the authority to use unmanned aircrafts as part of an operation, exercise, or mission. The bill legalizes the use of drones for search and recovery missions after natural disasters and for monitoring the Texas-Mexico border as part of Operation Lone Star.

Senate Bill 602 (Birdwell/Harless) expands the authority of U.S. Border Patrol agents who have completed a DPS training program to include arrest, search, and seizure at established border checkpoints and points of entry for felony offenses under Texas law. Current law only allows agents to detain certain individuals at these locations.

Senate Bill 1133 (Blanco/King, T.) creates a grant program to compensate agricultural landowners up to $75,000 for property damage caused by trespassers committing a border crime, such as the smuggling of persons, evading arrest, human trafficking, or a drug offense. Increased migrant traffic and law enforcement activity has left many landowners with significant financial losses and property damage.

Senate Bill 1403 (Parker/Spiller) authorizes the Governor to coordinate and execute an interstate compact for border security among interested states without congressional approval. The compact will allow participating states to share law enforcement intelligence and resources for heightened detection and deterrence of illegal border activity and will further protect personnel and property to overcome continued shortcomings of existing federal border policy.

Senate Bill 1484 (Creighton/Holland) creates a collaborative border operations training program through DPS for peace officers employed by local law enforcement agencies along the border. The bill will allow DPS to share expertise in identifying and preventing of transnational criminal activity to local authorities.

Senate Bill 1900 (Birdwell/Guillen) designates Mexican drug cartels and criminal organizations as foreign terrorist organizations in the State of Texas and increases penalties for the destruction of illegal drugs and the operation of stash houses. This bill also adds foreign terrorist organizations to current intelligence databases and allows local entities to seek public nuisance claims against them. Governor Abbott issued an executive order last September designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations and has requested President Joe Biden take similar federal action.

Read more about the Governor's border security bill signing.

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