PERMITLESS CARRY HEADS TO GOVERNOR
(AUSTIN) — Texans who can lawfully carry a handgun, concealed or openly, would be permitted to do so without a license from the state under a bill that the Senate sent to Governor Greg Abbott Monday. Abbott has said he will sign the bill, HB 1927, making Texas the 21st state to pass such a law. Senate sponsor and Georgetown Senator Charles Schwertner told his colleagues that the bill is the strongest Second Amendment bill he’s seen in his career as an elected official. “During the conference committee, we worked diligently with our House colleagues to ensure a final bill that restores a fundamental right of all law-abiding citizens in Texas to carry without a license: a right that was stripped away in 1871, a right already afforded to owners of long guns, a right to fulfil our constitutional right to keep and bear arms without the requirement of a license,” he said.
The final draft, developed through negotiations with the House, makes three changes to the bill as approved by the Senate. It maintains the enhanced penalties for felons who carry in violation of state and federal law but removes the “3G” distinction of these offenses. This category of offenses covers the most severe crimes, such as murder, sexual assault, and aggravated robbery and requires that an offender serve half of their sentence before they become eligible for parole. The bill still permits private property owners and businesses to prohibit carry on their premises, but the conference committee report wouldn’t make that a crime if a person was told they weren’t allowed to carry on that property and then promptly left. Finally, conferees added back in a House provision that expunges certain offenses related to unlawful carry from the records of those convicted prior to the passage of this bill into law.
Also Monday, the Senate approved the House’s version of a bill that would penalize large municipalities that cut police department budgets without approval from the office of the Governor. “By decreasing law enforcement resources and support, local officials endanger our communities and the law enforcement officers who protect us on a daily basis,” said Senate sponsor and Houston Senator Joan Huffman. Under the bill, HB 1900, the criminal justice division of the Governor’s office would determine that such municipalities are a “defunding municipality.” Until they restore funding to previous levels, the city or county would face a number of sanctions. They would have to hold disannexation elections for every parcel annexed in the previous 30 years, giving residents in those areas the option to leave that jurisdiction, and it would also prohibit further annexations. Offending municipalities would be restricted in how much they could raise property tax rates, and revenue from sales tax collections would be pro-rated by the comptroller, deducting any funds spent by the state to provide public safety. With these sanctions on the table, Huffman said her hope is that the bill is never enforced. “It is my hope this legislation never has to be used, that in fact our law enforcement community will have the funds necessary to perform the critical functions that we need of them so desperately - and this bill never has to be used,” she said.
The bill would allow municipalities to apply for permission to reduce police budgets under unusual circumstances. This could include natural disasters or one-time capital outlays that don’t run year-over-year. It would also only apply to cities with populations greater than 250,000, which Huffman said would count 11 Texas cities now, possibly rising to 13 after the new census data comes in. The bill will now head back to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, May 25th at 10 a.m.