May 08, 2007
Farrar on HB13's passage

One more press release from Rep. Jessica Farrar on last night's House vote to pass HB13:

On Monday, May 7, HB 13 by Chairman Swinford (R-Dumas) was voted out of the Texas House of Representatives. Before taking a vote on HB 13, Rep. Farrar (D-Houston) asked her fellow members to vote against the bill. HB 13 places the State Office of Homeland Security under the Office of the Governor and therefore allows a political office to allocate funds and oversee programs for border and homeland security programs. Rep. Farrar voted against HB 13.

An amendment by Rep. Farrar to allow DPS to allocate border and homeland security funds based on need was tabled, as was an amendment by Rep. Herrero (D-Robstown) that would have moved all homeland security activities under DPS. Rep. Merritt (R-Longview) also offered several amendments aimed at increasing the accountability for those both allocating and receiving funds for border and homeland security. All of Rep. Merritt's amendments were also tabled. In response to this, Rep. Farrar stated that, "Instead of basing law enforcement decisions on law enforcement criteria, we are continuing and officially setting up a political patronage system. We risk continuing the dismal results obtained thus far by the border security programs administered by the Office of the Governor. In doing so, we have also managed to increase the Governor's power at a time when most Texas residents are questioning such a move."

Rep. Farrar has been a vocal critic of the language in HB 13 since it was introduced in the House Committee on State Affairs, of which she is a member. Chief among her concerns has been that the bill tasks the State Office of Homeland Security with law enforcement duties. "Today we denied our premier state-level law enforcement authority, DPS, the ability to fully do its job," said Rep. Farrar in response to the failure on the part of the House to allow DPS to allocate and oversee border and homeland security programs.

While Chairman Swinford has repeatedly stated that any federal border and homeland security funds have to be allocated by the Office of the Governor, Rep. Farrar has stated that this is not the case. "The information provided to me by members of our Texas congressional delegation as well as the Federal Office of Homeland Security made it clear that there is no reason why DPS cannot allocate border and homeland security funds. We would not risk losing any federal money by doing this, and I think it is regretful that supporters of HB 13 felt it necessary to mislead their fellow members and the public as a whole on this aspect of the debate in an effort to gain support for the bill," said Rep. Farrar. In addition, the $100 million in state funds for border and homeland security funding that Chairman Swinford has referred to is not dependant on the passage of HB 13. "That $100 million is allocated in HB 1. Whether HB 13 had been successful or not, that money has already been set aside for the purpose of border and homeland security," stated Rep. Farrar.

"I fear that we will not effectively protect the border or the state as a whole if we allow a political office to be in charge of law enforcement activities. In fact, I believe that we risk making ourselves more vulnerable if we continue to create a false sense of security by relying on a system and programs that have failed to produce sustainable results. Unfortunately, I believe HB 13 does just that," stated Rep. Farrar.

HB 13 will now be considered by the Texas Senate.

Not much else to say other than "I agree". Seems to me every time the Lege has passed a bill under inaccurate premises, it has come to regret it - see the Trans Texas Corridor and HB2292 for recent examples. The Observer has more, including a link to this El Paso Times story that tells you a lot about how things have already been with border funds under Governor Perry's control.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 08, 2007 to That's our Lege