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Texas Senate to vote only on law enforcement-related bills Monday

Only bills related to law enforcement will be considered in the Senate on Monday, the first day of the legislative session when the House and Senate are allowed to pass non-emergency legislation.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in Austin on Jan 9, 2017.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the news that all three bills were approved by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Next Monday is the first day that the House and Senate can consider non-emergency items, and it will be all about law enforcement in the Senate, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced Monday.

Bills on other subjects will not be considered Monday, Patrick said.

"All of our first responders, every day, when they go to work, commit to do something that none of the rest of us do in Texas," Patrick said. "So we need to do all we can to make sure we're always for them, 'cause they're always there for us."

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee cleared three bills on law enforcement on Monday, all of which are expected to easily pass on the Senate floor:

  • Senate Bill 12 by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, would create and fund a $25 million bulletproof vest grant program for approximately 50,000 officers on patrol across the state.
  • Senate Bill 1138 by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, would create the Blue Alert System, a notification mechanism to help apprehend people suspected of killing or seriously injuring law enforcement officers. The bill would require the Texas Department of Public Safety to work with other state agencies to create a statewide alert system. State and local agencies already work together to apprehend suspects in these cases, but an alert system would make the entire process easier, Whitmire said.
  • Senate Bill 798 by Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, would designate July 7 – the day of the Dallas ambush in 2016 that left five officers dead – Fallen Law Enforcement Officer Day. While they may be strangers to some, law enforcement officers are someone else's friends, family and neighbors, Huffines said. 

"All 31 of us have co-sponsored these pieces of legislation to reinforce the policy of this state senate and this state government that law enforcement is our frontline of defense," said Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, praised lawmakers for their focus on law enforcement. "This is the hardest time to be a cop in the time I've been around," he said.

Read related coverage about law enforcement in Texas:

  • Proposals in the Sandra Bland Act include limiting police searches during stops, adding reporting requirements for racial profiling and creating an independent ombudsman to monitor inmates' rights and services. 
  • Seventeen-year-olds can't vote, join the military or buy cigarettes or alcohol on their own, but they're treated as adults in criminal cases in Texas. About 200 people rallied at the Capitol to change that.
  • Texas' top criminal justice lawmakers are considering sending community leaders into public schools to teach ninth graders how to interact with police.
  • The July ambush of police officers in downtown Dallas was one of the highest-profile examples of the intense community-law enforcement divide in 2016.

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Courts Criminal justice State government 85th Legislative Session State agencies Texas Legislature