Analysis: After hinting at 'George Floyd Act' last year, Gov. Greg Abbott goes all in on law and order

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a recent news conference. - Courtesy Photo / Texas Governor's Office
Courtesy Photo / Texas Governor's Office
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a recent news conference.
When George Floyd was murdered last summer by a Minneapolis police officer, Gov. Greg Abbott called the death a "horrific act act of police brutality" and suggested a "George Floyd Act" might come out of the Texas Legislature.

"George Floyd has not died in vain," the Republican governor said at a memorial service in Floyd's hometown of Houston. "I am committed to working with the family of George Floyd to ensure we never have anything like this ever occur in the state of Texas."

But on Tuesday, the day after the closure of the Texas legislative session, the first criminal justice bills Abbott signed had nothing to do with curbing police brutality. Instead, he signed into law a quartet of GOP-backed measures that would punish cities for cutting police budgets and target protesters with stiff criminal penalties.

The passage of those proposals comes on the heels of nationwide marches asking for increased police accountability and the reallocation of law enforcement budgets so more money is available for social programs that address the root causes of crime.

One of the bills Abbott signed into law would penalize any municipality with more than 250,000 residents that reduces its police budget by cutting its access to state sales taxes. Another would require counties with populations of more than a million to hold public elections before lowering or reshuffling their police budgets.

The two remaining pieces of legislation would impose stiff criminal penalties on people who block emergency vehicles or use fireworks or laser pointers against police.

Critics have blasted those two bills as solutions in search of a problem since Texas' anti-police brutality protests have largely been peaceful. Indeed, activists accused Abbott of dogwhistle racism last fall as he repeatedly pushed the Lege to pass tough penalties for "rioters."

And that George Floyd Act?

The Texas Black Legislative Caucus proposed one, which included an ambitious slate of criminal justice reforms. However, during a session dominated by Republican priorities, only only a handful of those actually made it to the finish line, among them a ban on unnecessary police choke holds.

That ban, along with requirements that police keep their body cameras on during the duration of an incident and that they render first aid are still awaiting Abbott's signature, the Texas Tribune reports.

What's clear is that Abbott's signing of bills limiting cities' abilities to make their own policing decisions and signaling his willingness to get tough on protesters had more political expediency.

After all, the signing ceremony came the same day as Abbott received a 2022 reelection endorsement from Donald Trump, who made overheated law-and-order rhetoric a hallmark of his presidency. And now that Abbott faces a primary challenge former state Sen. Don Huffines, he's all about playing to an increasingly right-leaning GOP base.

Looks like Floyd's family will have to wait for those comprehensive law enforcement reforms. Most likely for Abbott to leave office.

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