Something to learn here. Despite the radical rhetoric of a few, the vast majority of Americans support their police.
Eleven Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives, most of them from the Rio Grande Valley, voted with Republican lawmakers last Friday to approve a bill that was crafted in response to the City of Austin’s police budget cuts last year.
HB 1900 would trigger disannexation elections in parts of any city with a population of more than 250,000, in the event that the governor’s office designated the city a “defunding municipality.” The bill would also allow the state comptroller to withhold sales taxes owed to a “defunding” city and redirect it to the Department of Public Safety.
Those measures would make it difficult for Austin to move forward with aspects of its ongoing Reimagining Public Safety process, and could even pressure the city council to roll back cuts made to the police budget last year.
Politically, the vote on HB 1900 signals an emerging divide between Progressive Democrats in the larger cities of Texas and more centrist Democrats in south Texas. Republicans made significant inroads in the Rio Grande Valley in the 2020 election, improving their standing in national races, though state legislative seats in the region are still held by long-serving Democrats.
Looking ahead to the 2022 midterm election, Republican leaders are hoping to use police funding again as a wedge issue. During floor debate, Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), the lead author of HB 1900, described it repeatedly as “the pro-police, Back the Blue bill.” Likewise, Raymond framed the bill as an election issue, cautioning fellow Democrats, “Understand, politically, that if you don’t vote for this bill it could be misinterpreted that you are not strong on law enforcement.”
“Absolutely, I’d use it against you. I’d use it against you in a heartbeat,” he said. “So expect that if you (vote against it). It’s a redistricting year. Some of the districts are going to change up. And issues will come up, they just will. So think about that a little bit.”
Judging by the vote counts on HB 1900 and a similar bill in the senate, SB 23, that message seems to be sinking in. Democrats in both chambers of the legislature—particularly those who represent majority Hispanic constituencies in the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, and Houston—increasingly appear wary of falling into a GOP trap by opposing so-called “Back the Blue” legislation.