SENATE APPROVES MONEY FOR RURAL LAW ENFORCEMENT, RETIRED TEACHERS

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(AUSTIN) — Rural counties would see an unprecedented boost in funding for law enforcement under a bill approved by the Senate on Tuesday. Bill author and Muenster Senator Drew Springer said that rural peace officers often have to cover hundreds of square miles of territory while lacking the tax base to hire the personnel and equipment to meet the needs of their communities. SB 22 would allot up to half-a-million dollars in grants to counties with less than 300,000 people for the purposes of hiring more deputies. It would also offer as much as $250,000 to these counties to hire personnel and resources for county prosecutors’ offices. The bill would set a minimum salary of $45,000 for deputies hired with this grant money. “This will make sure that Texans – no matter where they are, where they travel – are safe,” said Springer. “We will have the proper law enforcement and the proper prosecutorial power to go after those bad actors.” Of the state’s 254 counties, only 18 have a population of more than 300,000. Grant amounts would scale based on county size, with counties closer to the cap getting the full amount, sliding down to $275,000 for counties with less than 10,000 residents. Grants to prosecutors will also scale based on population, from $250,000 down to $100,000 for the state’s smallest counties.

This bill has been a major priority for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who said on Tuesday that while travelling around the state on his most recent campaign, he recognized a dire need for more funding for rural law enforcement. “It is unprecedented, the state has never helped local counties with law enforcement before,” he said. “I thank all the members who supported this unanimously and recognized that law enforcement needs to be there in all 254 counties.”

The Senate also approved this week the first cost of living adjustment for the state’s retired educators since 2013. SB 10, by Houston Senator Joan Huffman, would give teachers who retired prior to 2013 a four percent increase in benefits and two percent to teachers who retired before 2021. Additionally, the bill would authorize a one-time payment of $7,500 to teachers aged 75 or older, in order to account for the lower average salaries these teachers earned while active. “I know that we are all thrilled to be able to present this to the TRS retirees, we are all incredibly grateful for their long support and work in our public schools and what they do for Texas,” said Huffman.

Also this week the Senate passed three bills dealing with transgender issues, restricting some treatments and prohibiting trans athletes from competing in some sports leagues. Senate Bill 15, by Galveston Senator Mayes Middleton, would require that collegiate student athletes compete in divisions that match the sex listed on their birth certificate. Middleton said that athletes who were born as males develop insurmountable advantages that risk fairness and safety in women’s sports. “When we consider the physiological differences between men and women in the context of athletic competitions, we can’t have fair competition,” he said. The Senate also approved SB 162, by Lubbock Senator Charles Perry, which would prohibit altering the sex on a minor’s birth certificate, except in cases where a child is born intersex.

The Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would ban gender therapies for Texans younger than 18. SB 14, by New Braunfels Senator Donna Campbell, would make it illegal for minors to receive puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgery for the purposes of transitioning gender. Campbell said there hasn’t been enough study on the long term effects of these treatments. “We just don’t know what awaits the child, except a lifelong patient as they live in a hormone-changed body that they were never expected to have,” said Campbell. The bill was amended with a grandfather clause that would allow any minor receiving drug treatments prior to June of this year to continue, though it would still ban surgical procedures. The bill must still face a final vote before it heads to the House.

The Senate will reconvene Monday, April 3 at 9 a.m.