In a series of four bills, the Texas legislature cracked down on cities with populations of over 250,000 people or more that attempt to dismantle police funding.Defunded municipalities will have their property tax revenue withheld, and all profits will then be distributed to the Texas Department of Public Safety to pay for “state resources used to protect residents.”
“The men and women of law enforcement put their lives on the line every day to keep Texans safe, and they deserve our enduring support and gratitude,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday. “Efforts to defund the police are downright dangerous, and these laws will prevent cities from making this reckless decision.”
Any county with a population of 1 million people or more will also be required to obtain voter approval before county officials reduce law enforcement budgets.
If the county does not receive voter approval but moves forward with reducing law enforcement, it too will have its property tax withheld.
Individuals will also now face “state jail felony” offenses if they knowingly block emergency vehicles or access to health care facilities.
Criminal charges have also increased for Texans who target police officers with lasers or fireworks with the intent of harming or obstructing their duties.
“With these laws, we are bolstering our support for law enforcement while ensuring a safer future for all Texans,” Abbott said Tuesday. “I applaud the Texas Legislature for joining me in passing these priority items and for making sure Texas remains a law-and-order state.”
Abbott pledged last week to sign legislation punishing cities that cut police funding, after Austin authorities were unable to respond to a shooting victim for 16 minutes, allegedly due to reduced resources.
Austin officials cut the city’s police department budget by a third in August 2020, following months-long protests over police violence targeting Blacks across the U.S.
“This is what defunding the police looks like,” Abbott wrote in a tweet. “Austin is incapable of timely responding to a victim shot in the head.”
“Texas won’t tolerate this,” he added.