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Texas House approves bill that would punish big cities that cut their police budgets

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Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press event. - COURTESY PHOTO / TEXAS GOVERNOR'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy Photo / Texas Governor's Office
  • Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press event.
The Texas House on Friday passed a bill to financially punish the state's largest cities if they cut police funding — a proposal championed by Gov. Greg Abbott as police reform groups called on cities to rethink law-enforcement budgets.

While proponents of House Bill 1900 said it's intended to back law enforcement and keep people safe, critics blast it as a cheap propaganda ploy that tramples on municipalities' abilities to make their own financial decisions. Ultimately, it passed out of the House on a 90-49 vote.

Under the HB1900, if a city of more than 250,000 residents cuts its police funding, the state would be able to confiscate some of its sales tax receipts and funnel the money to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Abbott, a Republican, called for the measure last summer amid the nationwide reckoning on police accountability that followed George Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer. Abbott's demand came as his own state budget cuts siphoned off grants for sheriff's departments.

So far, Austin is the only major Texas city to take a scalpel to its police funding. Last year, its progressive dominated city council shifted funds away from certain police duties, moving them into social programs intended to prevent crime from happening in the first place.

Abbott's call for the punitive bill came amid mounting calls by police reform groups to rethink police budgets. Republican lawmakers have repeatedly used the slogan "defund the police," popular with some reformers, as a cudgel against progressive candidates.

HB1900 now shifts to the Texas Senate, which passed a separate bill requiring cities seeking to seek a public vote before cutting police budgets. It's not clear whether the two bodies will seek to reconcile differences between the two proposals as the final weeks of the session tick down.

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