SENATE PASSES FINAL BORDER SECURITY PLAN
|Senator Brian Birdwell of Granbury led efforts to craft a border security plan this session.|
(AUSTIN) — The Senate Tuesday approved a bill that will determine border security operations for the future. The bill, HB 11 represents agreed-to language between the House and Senate, its sponsor Senator Brian Birdwell of Granbury said. The bill works along with $800 million already earmarked for border security funding in the final version of the state budget approved by House and Senate negotiators earlier this month. "We're making sure that the people of the state of Texas safety is first and foremost and paramount in our minds," said Birdwell.
Crafting the plan has been a session-long task and has been highly prioritized by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott. Abbott named the issue an emergency in his February State of the State address.
Patrick held a press conference in February to call for funding to maintain the Texas National Guard presence along the border while additional DPS officers were trained to take their places. The bill passed Tuesday would do that, working with $72 million allocated in the budget to keep guard troops in the Rio Grande Valley. The budget also includes more than $100 million for 250 new DPS troopers and 110 additional support staff to augment border security operations. HB 11 authorizes a 10-hour workday for DPS troopers, at a cost of $142 million in the budget. The bill also allows for the construction of two special border security facilities. One would be built to facilitate joint training between local, state and federal officials at a cost of $2.4 million. The second would act as a clearinghouse for border crime intelligence and would collect reports from all agencies that deal with criminal activity along the border.
One amendment was accepted to the bill. It would create a joint oversight committee, where members of the House and Senate would oversee the implementation and the effectiveness of the provisions in HB 11. As an agreed-to bill, the House will likely take an up-or-down vote on Senate changes and send the bill on to the governor without the need to appoint a conference committee.
Also Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that would create a panel to review the cases of innocent people who were wrongly convicted and make recommendations on how to avoid future wrongful convictions. Bill author Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston likened the panel to the National Transportation Safety Board, which reviews plane and train crashes to determine what went wrong and how to avoid such accidents in the future. The panel, named for the late Tim Cole, who spent 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, would be limited to reviewing exonerations that occurred after 2010. The panel wouldn't find people on which to blame wrongful convictions, but "to see what went wrong in case there are general strategies that can be applied across the board so that a tragedy doesn't occur again," said Ellis. Texas leads the nations in exonerations, with 205 people set free after wrongful convictions.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, May 27 at 10:30 a.m.