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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Governor Abbott Signs Bonnen Border Legislation

Insider's Report Vol. 10 No. 23

Texans have made clear that the security of the Texas-Mexico border is our greatest priority.  I was proud to stand beside Governor Greg Abbott earlier this week as he signed House Bill 11 into law, signaling not only that Texas is stepping up to the plate where our federal government has failed, but that we will also continue to hold Washington accountable for the financial burden that Texas has assumed by fulfilling the responsibility of the feds.

I authored HB 11 this session to strengthen public safety and security measures along our border and throughout the State of Texas by multiplying the Texas Department of Public Safety in strength, resources, and 250 troopers along the border.  My legislation, combined with HB 10 and HB 12 that were also signed into law, cracks down on the terrible crimes against humanity, including trafficking of women and children, and the gang-related smuggling of drugs and contraband. This permanent, long-term plan will not only create a consistent force in our state's border region but will also ensure communities across Texas are safer.

The comprehensive approach under House Bill 11 includes the following provisions:

  • Enhances DPS' ability to recruit and retain officers by authorizing the agency to implement a 10-hour workday and 50-hour workweek for commissioned officers; elect to credit up to four years of experience as a peace officer as years of service for the purpose of calculating the officer's salary;  and accept a person applying to the department's trooper trainee academy if the person has served four or more years in the United States Armed Forces as a member of the military police or other security force and received an honorable discharge.
  • Requires the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office and McAllen Police Department, with the assistance of DPS, to establish and operate the Texas Transnational Intelligence Center as a central repository of real-time intelligence.  Each border law enforcement agency, along with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, must report to the center information regarding criminal activity in the law enforcement's jurisdiction.
  • Establishes a Transnational and Organized Crime Division within the Attorney General's office to assist local prosecutors and local law enforcement in investigation and prosecution of trafficking.Enables the Public Safety Commission to establish a reserve officer corps consisting of retired or previously commissioned DPS officers to assist the department in conducting background investigations, sex offender compliance checks, and other duties.
  • Directs DPS to implement a strategy for providing assistance at southbound border checkpoints in the interdiction of weapons, bulk currency, stolen vehicles, and other contraband, and of fugitives, being smuggled into Mexico.
  • Streamlines crime reporting by moving local law enforcement agencies towards the implementation of a nationally-recognized reporting system.
  • Mandates the construction of a multiuse training facility to be used by DPS, Texas Military Forces, and county and municipal law enforcement agencies.
  • Expands wiretap laws to target the offenses of "aggravated promotion of prostitution" and "compelling prostitution." 
  • Enhances penalties for the offenses of smuggling and continuous smuggling.
  • Calls for the creation of a 10-member joint interim committee to study border security, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker. The committee shall submit a full report, including findings and recommendations, to the 85th Legislature before the next session in January 2017 to determine any further action that needs to be taken by the Texas Legislature.

In addition to signing House Bills 10, 11, and 12, Governor Abbott also approved SCR 5, a concurrent resolution requesting our federal government to reimburse the State of Texas for bearing the financial burden of the federal government's responsibility to secure the Texas-Mexico border.  Texas cannot afford to wait for the feds to act and must implement the measures under HB 11 to secure our border, but we also remain committed to sending a strong message to our elected leaders in Washington by calling on them to fulfill their duty of ensuring the safety of all citizens.