Texas Senate passes bill requiring voters to approve cuts to police budget

"We are going to back the blue."

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The Texas Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would require cities to get voter approval before cutting the police budget. 

Senate Bill 23, authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, passed by a vote of 28-2, and reportedly had the support of the police unions and most Democrats, who feared being labeled as anti-police if they voted no. Per The Hill, if passed by the House, the bill would require that local governments “hold an election in accordance with this chapter if the municipality or county proposes to adopt a budget” that cuts the police force or funding, or seeks to move funds from one agency to another. 

The legislation is also supported by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott who has publicly condemned calls to “defund the police.”

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As theGRIO previously reported, despite calls for police reform, many Americans are not in favor of defunding the police. A new study published in March by Ipsos and USA Today revealed that most Americans do not support the “defund the police” movement. While many activists call for police reform, the strategy that suggests redistributing funds allocated for police departments has been met with major criticism.

The poll questioned 1,165 Americans between March 1st and 2nd and discovered 67% of white Americans are against the strategy, along with 84% of Republicans.

The term began to gain momentum in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, who died due to police brutality. Activists like Tamika Mallory have been instrumental in leading the charge for police reform and some assume the term calls for police abolishment, even though that is inaccurate.

“Number one–it’s not what I think defund means, I know what it means, because there’s a big difference between abolishment and defunding,” said Mallory to The Jasmine Brand in December.  

“We do not support defunding the police, but we do believe in collaborative policing and giving local governments the ability to make the decision that is best for their community,” Texas state Rep. Nicole Collier, a Fort Worth Democrat and chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said last week, Texas Tribune reports.

Senate Bill 23, said Sen. Huffman, “sends a message to the citizens that we are going to back the blue,” she said on the Senate floor. “That’s what this bill intends to do.”

Meanwhile, police reform advocates oppose such bills because they stem from the false belief that calls for police accountability is an attack on law enforcement. 

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“When it comes to standing up for the thousands if not millions of Texans who spoke out, protested, rallied in the streets at some point in 2020 or picking the billions of billions of dollars going into police budgets and the status quo, nine times out of 10 they’re going to pick [police],” said Chas Moore, who leads the Austin Justice Coalition.

Last year the Austin police department’s funds were slashed by a third, with millions going toward public services, like housing and mental health. Additionally, the city’s crime lab, along with its funding, was moved out of the police department, according to the report.

“The city of Austin is the reason this bill is passing,” Huffman said. “Not to send a message, not to be political, but to be sure there’s not another Austin.”

“This bill is moving through the Legislature more quickly than other bills, which makes us extremely concerned about it,” said Nick Hudson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

“Texas is a law-and-order state, and we are going to ensure that we keep it that way,” Abbott said in January.

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