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Abbott Vetoes Four Criminal Justice, Public Safety Bills

Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed four criminal justice and public safety bills, bringing to eight the total number of vetoes he has issued in the aftermath of the 84th legislative session.

Gov. Greg Abbott in Pflugerville, Texas, for signing of open-carry bill on June 13, 2015.

Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed four bills on criminal justice and public safety late Thursday, doubling the stack of legislation that so far has drawn his executive rebuke. 

The latest round of vetoes, made public Friday morning, includes House Bill 1015, which would have required the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to notify a court sentencing a convicted felon when he or she has spent 75 days in a state jail. Supporters of the legislation said it would have kept offenders from falling outside of judges' radar and heightened awareness of rehabilitation programs, which tend to be less costly to the state than jail. 

Abbott, however, argued that it would have amounted to the state effectively issuing a reminder that a felon can be released early — a responsibility already held by attorneys and judges involved in the case before the conviction. 

"House Bill 1015 has the potential to inappropriately increase the number of convicted felons granted early probation," Abbott wrote in his veto statement. "Crime victims and the public deserve better."

Another veto hit House Bill 1119, which would have directed the Texas Department of Transportation to work with researchers at Texas A&M University to study "fallen or damaged mile markers" along interstate highways in Texas. HB 1119 backers said it would have prompted mile-marker replacements that could help first responders find stranded motorists. Abbott said it would have been redundant.

"Existing law already gives TxDOT the authority to study the signs on our highways and take remedial action where appropriate, so House Bill 1119 is unnecessary," he said in a veto statement Friday. 

Abbott also vetoed House Bill 973, which he said would have doubled the compensation for emergency services commissioners in Harris County. The governor called the bill an "unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer money and an inappropriate departure" from laws already in effect. 

The fourth veto struck House Bill 3291, an effort to make it easier to prosecute those who possess, purchase or sell oil or gas without proper permits from the state, according to its supporters, who appear to have included Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick. In his veto statement, Abbott said he supports increased criminal penalties for oilfield theft, but said HB 3291 contained "overly broad language" that could lead to prosecutions that have nothing to do with that crime. 

Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, authored two of the bills vetoed in this batch by Abbott. In a statement Friday, she said she was "extremely disappointed" with his vetoes of HB 973 and HB 1119. 

"By not entrusting our ESDs to allocate their funds as local manpower needs require, the governor has chosen to play politics with our local emergency services," she said of the bill dealing with emergency services commissioners. On the mile-marker legislation, she said the markers could "mean the difference between life and death" in some accidents, and "it is discouraging that the governor feels that this public safety priority does not warrant the state’s attention.”

Thursday's four vetoes bring to eight the total number of bill vetoes Abbott has issued. He has until Sunday to veto, sign or let legislation from the 84th legislative session go into law without his signature. 

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State government 84th Legislative Session Governor's Office Greg Abbott Texas Legislature