Texas Governor Takes Executive Action On Mass Violence; Committee Assignments Announced

UPDATE: Eight executive orders were announced late this morning by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott:

  • Order No. 1 Within thirty days of this order, the Texas Department of Public Safety shall develop standardized intake questions that can be used by all Texas law enforcement agencies to better identify whether a person calling the agency has information that should be reported to the Texas Suspicious Activity Reporting Network.
  • Order No. 2 Within thirty days of this order, the Department of Public Safety shall develop clear guidance, based on the appropriate legal standard, for when and how Texas law-enforcement agencies should submit Suspicious Activity Reports.
  • Order No. 3 Within sixty days of this order, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement shall make training available to educate all law-enforcement officers regarding the standards that will be developed pursuant to Order No. 1 and Order No. 2.
  • Order No. 4 The Department of Public Safety shall create and conduct an initiative to raise public awareness and understanding of how Suspicious Activity Reports are used by law-enforcement agencies to identify potential mass shooters or terroristic threats, so that the general public and friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and classmates will be more likely to report information about potential gunmen.
  • Order No. 5 The Department of Public Safety shall work with the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on ways to better inform schools, students, staff, and families about the importance of Suspicious Activity Reports and how to initiate that process.
  • Order No. 6 The Department of Public Safety shall work with local law enforcement, mental-health professionals, school districts, and others to create multidisciplinary threat assessment teams for each of its regions, and when appropriate shall coordinate with federal partners.
  • Order No. 7 The Department of Public Safety, as well as the Office of the Governor, shall use all available resources to increase staff at all fusion centers in Texas for the purpose of better collecting and responding to Suspicious Activity Reports, and better monitoring and analyzing social media and other online forums, for potential threats.
  • Order No. 8 Beginning January 1, 2020, all future grant awards from the Office of the Governor to counties shall require a commitment that the county will report at least 90 percent of convictions within seven business days to the Criminal Justice Information System at the Department of Public Safety. By January 1, 2021, such reporting must take place within five business days.

Previous story …

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and state leaders continued their efforts to curtail mass shootings this week with several key announcements.

The first efforts came in the form of committee assignments from the leaders of both chambers.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced his appointments to a Texas Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety: Sens. Joan Huffman (R-chairman), Judith Zaffirini (D-vice chairman), Donna Campbell (R), Kelly Hancock (R), Jane Nelson (R), Charles Perry (R), Jose Rodriguez (D), Larry Taylor (R), and John Whitmire (D).

Speaker Dennis Bonnen‘s House appointments were Drew Darby (R, Chairman), Poncho Nev├írez (D, Vice Chairman), Cesar Blanco (D), Giovanni Capriglione (R), Charlie Geren (R), Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D), Julie Johnson (D), Brooks Landgraf (R), Mike Lang (R), Joe Moody (D), Geanie Morrison (R), Four Price (R), and Armando Walle (D).

The second was a tweet highlighting what Gov. Abbott may do in the upcoming days. “The Texas House & Senate are getting to work on laws to keep communities safe from gun violence. I will announce legislative considerations next week & executive action this week. Legislators can be part of the process or part of the problem”, the governor noted via Twitter.

What, exactly, this executive action will be is unclear.

Meanwhile, state House and Senate Democrats are calling for an “emergency special session” on gun violence. They called for the whole grocery list of gun control objectives, including, according to Austin’s KXAN-TV, “Enacting extreme risk protective order laws, closing existing loopholes in current protective order laws, losing the background check loopholes, banning the sale of high-capacity magazines, limiting the open carry of certain semi-automatic long guns, and requiring stolen guns be reported to law enforcement.”

From the hip: Legislative Democrats are quite aware their peers do not always follow up on a task force’s recommendations, especially once the news cycle on a matter has expired and election polls are closed. But that is unlikely to be their goal.

Gun control-hungry liberals in the legislature are using this opportunity to take the “lead” on calling for change, and as the 2020 primary elections are looming on the horizon. They’re hoping to hang inaction on gun violence over the heads of pro-Second Amendment Republicans.

Stepping away from the political posturing a bit: The fact remains that the Governor has a veto pen — even in the event of an immediately called special session he will likely doom any policy suggestion he does not approve of. The same goes for setting a legislative agenda and any emergency items for the next Legislature to consider — any policy items the task forces on mass violence and domestic terrorism come up with will not get far without Abbott’s ok. And on the other hand, policy goals supported by the Governor are a mixed bag. A similar task force recommendation resulted in mental health reforms in the recent legislature, while other goals (such as background checks for private sales) did not make it through.

Speaking of the legislature: As expected, the select committee membership is more strongly conservative on the Senate side and more moderate on the House side. Do not discount these committees: While task force recommendations come and go, interim committee recommendations are often taken quite seriously going in to a legislative session. What these committees do is where the rubber will meet the road.

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