ETHICS REFORM, SANCTUARY CITIES BAN MOVE FORWARD
(AUSTIN) — The Senate has given tentative approval to a measure that would outlaw the practice of sanctuary cities in Texas. This is a term commonly applied to municipalities that have policies, formal or otherwise, of discouraging or prohibiting officers from inquiring into immigration status of lawfully detained persons or cooperating with federal immigration officials. Governor Greg Abbott singled out the bill in last week's State of the State address, where he said this year would be the year the state bans the practice. He named it an emergency issue, fast tracking the legislation for consideration.
Senator Charles Perry authored the measure to ban sanctuary cities in Texas.
Bill author Senator Charles Perry of Lubbock said this bill isn't about immigration but rather about the rule of law. "This bill ensures that there is predictability, that our laws are applied without prejudice and equally no matter who is in elected capacity," he said. Perry added during the debate that immigrants, documented or otherwise, who aren't committing crimes have nothing to fear in SB 4. "That's all it applies to, the guys who break the law," he said.
In addition to banning sanctuary city policies, the bill would allow the state to withhold funds from cities that don't comply with the proposed law. They would also have to comply with requests from immigration officials to transfer custody of detained suspected criminal undocumented immigrants. Should a jurisdiction ignore such a request, and the person goes on to commit a crime after release, the bill would permit the victims of the crime to sue the jurisdiction for damages.
In an effort to avoid discouraging people stepping forward to report crimes regardless of immigration status, witnesses to and victims of crimes are exempted under the bill. Additionally, police officers couldn't stop a person for no reason other than to inquire about their immigration status.
The bill still has one more procedural vote to clear, likely on Wednesday, then it heads to the House for consideration.
Also Tuesday, the Senate passed the omnibus ethics reform bill unanimously. Bill author Senator Van Taylor of Plano said that the trust between the people and elected officials is the bedrock of our democratic process. "That's why this bill is needed," he said. "It is an affirmation to the people that our efforts to represent them rise above even the appearance of impropriety or self-service." The bill, SB 14, seeks to improve ethics standards for elected officials by lowering the dollar amount threshold for reporting food and entertainment from lobbyists and would remove any legislator or statewide elected official convicted of a felony from office and cancel any taxpayer funded pension they had coming. Under the bill, lawmakers and members of their immediate family would have to disclose any private business ties to state contracts.
It also looks to strengthen the wall between legislators and lobbyists by disallowing any person from serving in office while registered as a lobbyist. The bill creates an anti-"revolving door" rule that would require any lawmaker leaving the Legislature to wait a full legislative session before they can register as a lobbyist. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, February 8 at 11 a.m.