Senate Votes to Improve Benefits to Disabled Police
AUSTIN - Police officers who are left totally disabled by a criminal act while on duty would receive greater benefits under a bill passed by the Senate today.
The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 850 would allow police to receive supplementary income from the state crime victims' fund.
Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, the bill's author, cited the example of a Waco police officer who was disabled after he was shot twice while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
"Right now, permanently disabled officers who are injured while on duty are not eligible for benefits outside Social Security disability and workers' compensation," Barrientos said. "If a criminal injures an on-duty officer, that officer and his family must depend on workers' comp that oftentimes is substantially lower than the officer's pay. That, simply put, is not right."
CSSB 850 was easily passed with little discussion, with the exception of Waco Sen. David Sibley, who complimented Barrientos on the bill.
Also in today's session, the Senate voted to pass CSSB 1311, a measure authored by Palestine Sen. Todd Staples that would lengthen the time in which a voter's residency could be challenged to 75 days before an election.
The Senate also took up a related bill authored by Staples that would clarify the procedure for challenging voter registration. Senate Bill (SB) 1309 would require a sworn statement challenging a voter's registration to properly identify each challenged voter. Under the bill, the challenge must be based on specific knowledge of a voter's lack of qualifications.
Staples left the bill pending after several senators voiced concerns about the bill's consequences.
The Senate also took up legislation authored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan that he said would help reduce partisanship and the influence of money on judicial elections.
SB 129 would create retention elections for non-partisan judicial candidates and prohibit straight ticket voting for judges.
Accompanying legislation, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 3, would place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would change the way some judges are selected. Under SJR 3, the justices and chief justice of the Supreme Court, the presiding judge and judges of the court of criminal appeals, and the justices and chief justices of the court of appeals would be appointed by the governor. Following the appointed term, the judges could run in a retention election during a general election.
Duncan left the legislation pending without making a motion for final passage after several senators objected to transferring the ability to select judges from voters to the governor.
In other Senate news, the Education Committee took public testimony on SB 10. The bill, authored the committee chair, Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo, would set up a state-funded insurance program for teachers and other employees of public school districts.
The Senate stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Tuesday.