SENATE COMMITTEE ON FINANCE
AUSTIN (7/12/22, E1.036, 10:02 AM)
The Senate Finance Committee met today under the direction of Chair Joan Huffman.
Link to LBB’s Presentation: https://www.lbb.texas.gov/Documents/Publications/Presentation/7515_Border_Security.pdf
(10:02) Chair Huffman called the hearing to order. Roll called. Chair Huffman made opening comments, noting the state had the second longest international border and 28 ports of entry, but, despite the cultural and economic benefits, lack of federal action left the state vulnerable to cartel activity. Chair Huffman reviewed OLS activities and her most recent trip to the border with Sens. Hinojosa and Birdwell.
Operation Lone Star (10:08) Haley Ewing, LBB, testified. Ms. Ewing said they'd provided a list of amounts appropriated for border security from the 84th to the 87th Texas Legislatures - roughly $800 million was appropriated per session in the 84th- 86th with the bulk being put into DPS strategies and the 87th had increased that to $2.926 billion with the bulk of the funding at the Office of the Governor. Ms. Ewing said page 3 had a breakdown of the funding by agency and bill, and page 4 had a list of adjustments including the governor redesignating $180 million from House Bill 5 (87-2), the two transfers of just under $500 million in January and April for TMD operations, and, with other adjustments to appropriations, they had appropriated $4 billion for OLS so far. Ms. Ewing said there'd been two adjustments to reporting requirements.one in Article IX Section 7.1- of the GAA for semi-annual reporting with total border -related apprehensions and arrests, and the second in House Bill 9 (87-2) Section 8 which added 4 indicators in quarterly reports - the total number of individuals undergoing magistration from OCA, the number of individuals confined to TDCJ facilities, the number of miles constructed of temporary and permanent barriers as well as materials used from the Governor's Office, and the total amounts and distributions of grants from the trusteed programs in the Governor's Office. Ms. Ewing said the last page included information on reporting indicators they'd identified with the agencies and were now broken down into 44 programs across 13 state agencies which created more efficiency in tracking expenditures. Ms. Ewing said they were currently reviewing Q3 reports and would notify the committee when the report was available.
Chair Huffman asked if they.d been tracking border security related expenditures prior to the FY2016-2017 biennium. Ms. Ewing said she'd have to get back to the committee. Chair Huffman asked what the $69 million in adjustments were for. Ms. Ewing said it was for when funding in the strategy was redirected to other line items, providing an example.
Sen. Hinojosa asked if $4 billion was the total cost for FY2022. Katy Fallon- Brown, Manager for the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Division - LBB, testified. Ms. Fallon-Brown said it didn't bar any additional transfers and was the biennial number for some agencies, but the annual number for others. Sen. Hinojosa said he was trying to determine if they'd need additional transfers prior to the beginning of FY2023.
Sen. West asked if there were any balances carried forward for the coming fiscal year. Ms. Ewing said she didn't have that information. Sen. West asked if there were balances carried forward from FY2021 to FY 2022. Ms. Fallon- Brown said they didn't have a strategy by strategy UB number - they generally tracked UB by agency. Ms. Fallon-Brown said they generally received a new appropriation each biennium. Sen. West asked if they could. Ms. Fallon-Brown said she had not seen a carry-forward for DPS. Chair Huffman said they generally scrubbed any UB to determine if a reduction in the base for a strategy was appropriated and it counted against the appropriations in the new GAA.
Sen. Perry asked for the Q1 and Q2 reports to be submitted to the committee.
Sen. Hinojosa asked for a more comprehensive picture in coming hearings so they could be prepared to ask the agencies involved in OLS questions. Ms. Fallon-Brown said through the second quarter of FY2022 agencies expended $800 million and in FY2020-2021 agencies expended $820 million which was over 102% of their total appropriation. Sen. Hinojosa said they'd been told in the Border Security Subcommittee that the appropriation was now over $5 billion and would like some more solid numbers.
Chair Huffman said she believed the agencies would have more specific answers on expenditures and appropriations.
(10:21) Sarah Hicks, Budget Director - Governor's Office, testified. Ms. Hicks said the failure of CBP to properly staffed in a manner which would adequately enforce the current immigrantion laws had left the state vulnerable to gang activity and drug trafficking. Ms. Hicks reviewed apprehension data for 2020, 2021 and 2022 which indicated they were well over extant federal capacity. Ms. Hicks asserted the federal government had been "too accommodating" of migrants intending to cross and that it was related to enough fentanyl being seized to kill 319 million as well as 42 suspects on the terrorist watch list. Ms. Hicks reviewed the governor's actions related to the border and funding appropriated from the extant grant accounts at the office as well as funds appropriated in House Bill 9 and the GAA. Ms. Hicks said they'd created sub-accounts to better track the funds and noted that $116 thousand had been donated for busing costs as well as $120 million used for busing. Ms. Hicks provided information on the number of migrants bused to other areas of the country. Ms. Hicks said House Bill 9 allocated about $1 billion for the governor's office including $750 million for wall construction (in addition to an initial $250 million in the GAA and $150 million in private donations). Ms. Hicks said there had been 1.7 miles of permanent fencing installed by TFC and 1.9 miles from the previous administration in addition to 68 miles of temporary fencing. Ms. Hicks asserted there would be additional border communities issuing disaster declarations on the border in coming weeks - noting that the hurdle was to ensure the court system could process those arrested on state charges. Ms. Hicks said Gov. Abbott had announced the previous week that the remaining $30 million in local assistance grants was eligible for application by local governments with a disaster declaration related to the border with $40 million out of the total $100 million specifically for border counties still accounted for. Ms. Hicks said the total appropriation had originally been for 2,500 guard members, but they'd increased the deployment when encounters had increased - noting that the funds transferred were considered to be funds that would have lapsed and asserted that it would not impact the functions of the agencies it was transferred from. Ms. Hicks asserted they were committed to the idea that immigration was under federal jurisdiction, but felt they needed to act in absence of additional federal presence.
(10:35) Sen. Whitmire asked where the projects ended given that Ms. Hicks noted that the problem was only getting worse. Sen. Whitmire said he was concerned about criminal elements entering Houston due to the border being insecure, but he also felt that lack of support in local communities was leaving those communities more vulnerable. Sen. Whitmire said, "We can.t spend our way out of this. We couldn't build our way out of a prison crisis in the 90s so we may have to do something different." Sen. Whitmire said he felt they needed to try something different. Sen. Whitmire suggested that if they could find the legal means to do so, it would be less expensive to assist Mexico in securing their southern border. Sen. Whitmire noted that TxDOT had to stand up additional law enforcement given the lack of state troopers on the roads. Sen. Whitmire said it didn't appear migrants had been deterred by the billions the state was spending and noted that it appeared that complying with court appearance notices had gone down significantly by those who had qualified for asylum hearings. Sen. Whitmire suggested reaching out to Ambassador Tony Garza or Fmr. President Bush to create a diplomatic and humanitarian approach. Sen. Whitmire said he understood the politics and polling, but he wanted a concrete proposal, "short of bankrupting [the state]." Sen. Whitmire said he didn.t see a change and he was not even sure they were properly quantifying what looked like success. Sen. Whitmire said he was seeing reports that they were seizing tons of cocaine and there had been no corresponding increase to the cost of the substance which they expected to see.
Chair Huffman said Sen. Whitmire should call "your president." Sen. Whitmire said he couldn't get him on the phone, but Gov. Abbott likely could, adding, " Just so long as Paxton doesn't place the call." Sen. Whitmire said he was trying not to make the issue overly political and he'd been trying to go out of his way to avoid it. Sen. Whitmire said they started at $1 billion and now were spending several billion on it therefore he felt they needed a new strategy. Chair Huffman said she believed Gov. Abbott would be willing to talk to anyone - though she may be wrong.
(10:47) Sen. Perry said there was a difference between apprehensions and final disposition - suggesting that they could not continue to detain to see migrants being distributed throughout the country anyhow. Sen. Perry suggested that the current administration wasn't interested in addressing the issue and they may need to set up tents. Sen. Perry said he didn't believe they were having an impact and needed a new approach. Sen. Perry asked what the deportations were looking like after the announcement the previous week. Ms. Hicks said they were returning them to the port of entry - they could not indefinitely detain them or track individuals once ICE took possession of them. Ms. Hicks said Gov. Abbott had requested busing out of the state to reduce the impacts to communities which did not have enough services or housing to accommodate asylum seekers. Ms. Hicks said using excess TDCJ capacity was being used. Sen. Perry said he'd heard concerns about jail capacity in the counties. Ms. Hicks said they were using the Briscoe and Segovia Units as jails because of that. Chair Huffman said the third panel would have TDCJ.
Sen. Hinojosa discussed his experience as a border resident and said they were being overwhelmed and CBP had restored to "catch and release" due to lack of capacity. Sen. Hinojosa described the state appropriations as "a drop in the bucket" compared to the need - noting that migrants were arriving at the border not just from Central and South America, but from all over the world. Sen. Hinojosa asked if they planned of having additional funds transferred for OLS before the end of FY2022. Ms. Hicks said they had funds for TMD and DPS through the end of FY2022, but they would need to identify additional funds for FY2023. Sen. Hinojosa said he understood the processing had been stood up and asked about the fencing. Ms. Hicks said 805 miles had been identified as needing some sort of barrier. Sen. Hinojosa said he understood the funding they appropriated was for $900 million to construct 45 miles. Ms. Hicks said they'd set aside that amount for permanent wall construction, but the remaining was for temporary walls and sea wire. Sen. Hinojosa said it would take 34 years to complete such a barrier at the current rate, they may not have adequate eminent domain authority and they would need to do tidal analysis. Sen. Hinojosa said they needed to find a better method to manage the circumstances because the number of people coming across were "a bottomless pit." Sen. Hinojosa noted the amount of people coming across required CBP agents to be diverted from the field to processing - noting when those instances occurred, the people coming across were primarily single adult men who may have criminal records or be affiliated with cartels, though others had simply attempted to cross multiple times.
(11:01) Sen. Nelson said she appreciated Sen. Whitmire as a problem solver and felt the expertise necessary existed on the committee but it was not a Texas problem so they needed the federal government to step in. Sen. Nelson said she didn't believe they'd be able to solve the problem on their own and she would much rather spend the appropriations on other state needs. Sen. Nelson said she didn't believe the federal government could really grasp the problem without visiting the border himself - noting that there were "some bad people" coming across the border in addition to those seeking asylum.
Sen. Bettencourt and Ms. Hicks discussed apprehensions. Sen. Bettencourt said POTUS was not currently on the ballot for the general election and he felt that the failure of CBP was the worst he.d seen in his lifetime. Sen. Bettencourt said 96% of the US population could have been killed by the fatal doses of fentanyl coming across the border and the cost of ODs to cities was significant, adding, "Those 42 terrorists are not up here on a tourist trip." Sen. Bettencourt asserted that the state was "stepping up" to fill the void of an "abject failure."
Sen. West asked how many of those detained were being held in county jails. ChairHuffman said other witnesses could speak to that better. Sen. West asked what the cost was for confinement. Ms. Hicks asked if that was per encounter or just per arrest. Sen. West said he was only interested in the cost per person and total spent on confinement. Ms. Hicks said TDCJ and the sheriffs could better speak to that. Sen. West asked what tranche of funding the confinement revenue was coming from. Ms. Hicks said there had been specific appropriations to TDCJ to bring the facilities up to jail standards as well as funding provided to have medical support. Ms. Hicks said funding had been allocated to TDEM to set up processing centers. Ms. Hicks said some local grant awards was being used to add local capacity for the court processes in addition to BPU being used to augment prosecutorial capacity. Chair Huffman said the funding for TDCJ was for upgrading the facilities to meet jail standards as well as operate the facilities. Chair Huffman said the processing centers were primarily used for misdemeanors while the felonies were handled separately. Chair Huffman said the processing center and use of TDCJ facilities had significantly helped Val Verde Co.
Sen. Kolkhorst asked for the May apprehension numbers again. Ms. Hicks said in May 2022 149,402 had been apprehended, 119 thousand had been apprehended in May 2021, and 12,587 in May 2020. Sen. Kolkhorst asked if that was due to an increased presence or due to more people coming as well as what the number per day was of people arriving at the border. Ms. Hicks said she believed it was a combination of the two factors. Sen. Kolkhorst said fentanyl was the top reason people 18-45 were dying preventable deaths which outpaced other preventable deaths as well as COVID-19. Sen. Kolkhorst said DHS data indicated that the majority of the fentanyl was manufactured in China and trafficked over the US-MX border. Sen. Kolkhorst said they needed to protect their children and other citizens.
(11:18) Sen. Whitmire said the data indicated they were not being effective and he felt it was a broken system - noting he agreed that if it was purely a Texas problem they could fix it, but it was not and they did not have an endless supply of money. Sen. Whitmire said, "The suggestion that I call the president is not realistic." Sen. Whitmire said the majority of encounters and apprehensions were women and children being bused to other communities which may not have the capacity to accommodate them. Sen. Whitmire said he felt the criminal elements were the largest problem, but was also under the impression that just those expenditures had mixed results.
Sen. Kolkhorst discussed the issue of fentanyl trafficking further.
Sen. Hinojosa said it was not helpful to simply blame Democrats as it had been an issue for decades. Sen. Hinojosa expressed frustration with border photo ops and finger pointing.
Sen. Creighton and Ms. Hicks reiterated the fentanyl data. Sen. Creighton asserted that 79 thousand children had been trafficked in Texas and implied they were not from the country. Sen. Creighton said, "The humanitarian issue is modern day slave trade." Sen. Creighton asserted that they had the constitutional authority to enforce immigration law due to "invasion." Sen. Creighton asserted fentanyl had killed more Texans in the past year "than COVID, cancer and car wrecks combined." Sen. Creighton said, "Texans have had enough with this issue." Sen. Creighton asserted the mass shooting in Richmond on 7/4 had been planned by undocumented migrants.
(11:31) Sen. Blanco discussed property damage on the border - noting there was an instance where a barn had been burnt down due to migrants attempting to keep warm. Sen. Blanco asked if the public had to rely solely on insurance claims or if there were state grants. Ms. Hicks said they had yet to identify a method to do so in statute or the state constitution, but it was something for the legislature to discuss. Ms. Hicks said they were gathering the data on those property damages for the benefit of demonstrating the problem. Ms. Hicks said they'd been informed there was a federal grant, but it was so obscure they'd not been able to find them. Sen. Blanco said he understood that an allowable use of the grant funding was to provide final disposition for those who died of dehydration or exposure when crossing. Sen. Blanco asked how much of the local grants were available for processing human remains. Amy Snoddy, Director of Public Safety - Governor's Office, testified. Ms. Snoddy said they had given Brooks Co. about $100 thousand for such expenditures and other counties were using portions of their total grant for similar purposes but they didn't have additional information on how much. Sen. Blanco asked if the cost was reimbursable by federal funds. Ms. Snoddy said it was.
Sen. Lucio said he agreed with Sen. Nelson's comments and felt Chair Huffman was going to be a "stellar" replacement. Sen. Lucio said he appreciated the concern for public safety, but border residents for the most part felt safe. noting that negative press may be impacting their tourism industry. Sen. Lucio said they hadn't seen progress on border security over the past 6-7 presidential administrations - noting that people had been requesting an expansion of the guest worker program as the majority of people coming to the border were not criminals. Sen. Lucio said it was valuable to step up efforts to prevent crime, drug trafficking and human trafficking; but they also should look to other solutions for those who did not fall into the criminal category. Sen. Lucio said he appreciated them talking about the loss of life.noting that thousands had drowned in the Rio Grande and the majority had been driven out of their own countries by violence or even their own governments. Sen. Lucio discussed human remains found on ranches. Sen. Lucio said he felt the federal government needed to provide a little more latitude for border states as well as providing them with funding.
(11:45) Sen. Kolkhorst discussed property damages to her constituents related to bailouts. Sen. Kolkhorst requested they look at allowable uses for CVC and VOCA. Ms. Snoddy said CVC was set up to go directly to individuals, but VOCA funds could not be distributed in the same manner.
Col. Steve McCraw, ED - DPS, testified. Col. McCraw said the senators had framed the issue better than even he could and that it had not been long since days when they'd been able to re-allocate troopers from the RGV to other parts of the state - he looked forward to the days he could again make such recommendations. Col. McCraw described the previous influx of migrants in 2014 as "chump change" compared to the current circumstances - noting that it was a global mass migration event rather than the result of one failed state or disaster. Col. McCraw said they were being overrun in a manner that required CBP officers to be pulled from the field for processing as there were a lot of women and children arriving at the border - but there were also young men coming including members of MS-13 and MS-18 which resulted in Houston becoming a hub for the two organizations. Col. McCraw said the two organizations recruited members very young to indoctrinate them. Col. McCraw said it was most often when CBP officers were moved to processing when they saw criminal elements take advantage of the gaps - noting that, while the cartels would always find a way to make money, he never expected them to be able to make billions like they had with human trafficking. Col. McCraw said it was not compassionate to drive migrants to cartels they could become the victims of - discussing the common exploitation and extortion of undocumented people. Col. McCraw asserted th reason cartel murders weren't better publicized was because they commonly targeted journalists who reported on them. Col. McCraw said, while uniform crime statistics in Brownsville and El Paso were down, smuggling was up because it usually wasn't reported as occurring within those communities. Col. McCraw asserted the absence of crime was the evidence of success and, "We're not doing a good job right now." Col. McCraw said the best case scenario was having no criminal activity between ports of entry and they were back to a surge posture due to the influx of migrants. Col. McCraw said fentanyl was one of the best indicators - noting that they were pressing them into all sorts of other pills and often accidentally overdosing them. Col. McCraw said they.d seized 30 thousand lbs of methamphetamine which was much stronger than previous generations of the drug and wasn't dependent on growing seasons. Col. McCraw said the cartels often created relationships with gangs established in the US while incarcerated together and reviewed the origins of MS-13. Col. McCraw said they recently had a Houston case involving Tango Blast, an Asian street gang, a sect of the Bloods, the Gulf Cartel and the Aryan Brotherhood, adding, "So when it comes to race hating gangs: they only take it so far when it comes to money and then they collaborate." Col. McCraw said they were force multipliers that made things worse and that was why they focused on gang activity as well as human sex trafficking - which he asserted often involved women lured to the US under the pretense of working as nannies and were gang raped upon arrival until they were compliant with being trafficked.
(11:59) Col. McCraw said Texans were no longer okay with the activity to the point where border landowners were now volunteering their properties for construction of barriers. Col. McCraw said he looked at the barriers as " barriers between us and the enemy"--noting he did not look at asylum seekers in that manner, but the cartels. Col. McCraw said their expertise was more tactical than long-term and he appreciated the assistance of TMD. Col. McCraw said they were on pace to exceed the 1.3 million record of the previous year during the current year - noting it was a global mass migration event and the policy mattered. Col. McCraw said he appreciated Gov. Abbott meeting with his counterparts in the Mexican states Texas bordered - noting they were also not receiving the support they needed from their federal government, though they also had more autonomy than Texas did. Col. McCraw said he felt a more proactive approach was necessary and if the Mexican government wanted to assist, that would be ideal. Col. McCraw said bailouts on the coastal corridor had been increasing and causing problems for landowners which included crashing through livestock fences so they could get away and often did not care about the safety of their passengers in doing so. Col. McCraw reviewed a recent bailout which included the apprehension of a person who had been expelled after serving time for sexual violence and said he understood there were a lot of those cases.
Sen. Perry said they had quality state leadership, but he was concerned about "the black box" of what happened when a person was referred to CBP.if they did background checks on those who said they were seeking asylum. Col. McCraw said CBP did the background checks unless they had been apprehended for another state crime. Sen. Perry asked if they only crossed the river if they were doing anything. Col. McCraw said they'd detain them and call CBP unless they were groups of adult males and then they'd move them to the ports of entry. currently the most common crossings of those groups were currently in Eagle Pass so they were often referred to CBP at Camino Real. Sen. Perry asked if they were just dropped off. Col. McCraw said they were left in CBP custody. Sen. Perry asked what happened at that point. Col. McCraw said they followed the federal protocols. Sen. Perry said, "It's the black box." Col. McCraw said it was partially that way because not all of them were eligible for being deported to their country of origin or a third party country. Sen. Perry said he felt the federal government could make adding more capacity for those honestly seeking asylum if they wanted to, but wanted to know what they could do if they were able to change the rules of engagement for a declared invasion - noting that he did understand that the agencies involved were not actually trained for such missions including National and State Guard members. Col. McCraw said, "What right looks like in the absence of federal policy changes is really between the ports of entry is infrastructure." Col. McCraw said the short term was concertina wire, but relied on landowner cooperation and likely multiple layers of it. Col. McCraw said he understood it would make things more difficult for people seeking asylum, but it would address the overall problem - noting it would allow for them to prosecute those cutting the wire with vandalism and those crossing it with trespassing. Col. McCraw said large groups coming across unimpeded without any obstacle to direct them to an area to process them was not ideal. Sen. Perry asked if they were charging the person who cut the wire with vandalism, if they had to let all those behind them through. Col. McCraw said all the others would be charged with criminal trespass - the first would have the additional charge of criminal mischief. Sen. Perry asked if that prevented them "from making it to the black box." Col. McCraw said once they'd been fully adjudicated, they were returned to ICE or CBP. Sen. Perry asked how long their time was. Col. McCraw said it was up to a year. Sen. Perry asked how many times they'd seen convictions with jail time. Col. McCraw said OCA and TDCJ would have to speak to that. Sen. Perry asked his take on a "DMZ" where ranchers had left their properties. Col. McCraw said it depended on where their checkpoints were. Sen. Perry asked if he felt that many CBP agents would defect to DPS if offered the opportunity. Col. McCraw said, "I'd like to think they'd all do that when they grow up." Col. McCraw said they were looking at doing so - especially with those nearing retirement. Sen. Perry asked his opinion on the use of private contractors. Col. McCraw said, "Mercenaries? I'm not much of a fan." Sen. Perry said a sheriff in their border security hearing had asserted that they had "lost the war" and asked if it was a fair characterization. Col. McCraw said, "I think we may have lost the battle, we haven't lost the war." Sen. Perry said, "You're more optimistic than I am." Col. McCraw said, "You can turn off the spigot overnight with policy." Sen. Perry said he didn't think either the US or MX governments were interested in doing so and he felt that they even needed to stop the flow of asylum seekers because the message was that there was no border, adding, "The propaganda machine is not working for us now." Col. McCraw discussed his time as a federal agent at the AZ-MX border where they saw much more investment in DEA, customs and FBI than in border security. Sen. Perry said the difference was that the federal government was conducting covert operations in Columbia at the time and he did not understand why the federal government didn't see the merit in doing so again. Sen. Perry noted that it was more disruptive than it was conclusive. Col. McCraw said he was a part of disrupting the Caribbean Corridor - noting the problem was because of the success they'd had with those missions.
(12:15) Chair Huffman asked what would happen if they had not invested in the border. Col. McCraw said the cartels would likely have unlimited ability to traffic drugs over the border. Chair Huffman said she felt she could gavel out on that alone.
Sen. Hinojosa said there were issues with drugs and guns, but also with human smuggling - citing the deaths due to dehydration. Sen. Hinojosa said they had stash houses busted on a weekly basis and asked how they identified and coordinated with local partners. Col. McCraw said, "Coordination always works well with our local partners." Col. McCraw said they were sending special agents to identify stash houses in areas where they were more common as well as instituting inspections of commercial trucks after they crossed the border - not unlike the 100 mile CBP checkpoints. Sen. Hinojosa asked if they were doing anything to address deaths due to bailouts. Col. McCraw said they were deploying spikes to stop vehicles rather than allowing them to hit barriers as well as using RFDs for technology. Col. McCraw said the aircraft they'd been given also allowed them to back off their vehicles to make apprehensions safer for those who may be contained in the vehicles. Sen. Hinojosa asked if they were doing anything to detect cloned vehicles as well as identifying erratic behavior - noting he did feel that the current efforts had decreased the number which were crossing in the RGV.
Sen. Buckingham asked if the state had any control over being able to have LEOs enforce federal law. Col. McCraw said they could allow federally licensed officers to enforce state laws, but LEOs could not hold two commissions under the TCOLE statute. Col. McCraw said the federal government had to approve of federal agents enforcing state law for it to occur.
Sen. Kolkhorst asked what happened to the 42 terrorists on "the most wanted list" were handled. Col. McCraw said they were on the terrorism watch list. they weren't confirmed terrorists, but they did have to be detained and processed if apprehended. Col. McCraw said it was their impression that they were returned to their country of origin if they were not determined to be terrorists. Sen. Kolkhorst reviewed the records of 4 Mexican nationals with violent crimes in the US and asked what happened to them. Col. McCraw said they were not allowed to seek asylum. Sen. Kolkhorst asked what kinds of guarantees they had. Col. McCraw said they couldn't provide 100% confidence that they would be returned to their countries of origin, but he had a high level of confidence that they were if they were not detained for prosecution. Col. McCraw said the bigger problem was whether or not there were any such persons in their got-aways. Col. McCraw said they did post data to their website regarding those with violent convictions as well as those detained for prosecution. Sen. Kolkhorst asserted that the Opium Wars were being re-enacted, but in reverse. Sen. Kolkhorst asked what would be enough. Col. McCraw said he felt the only thing that would be satisfactory to the legislature was if there was no one crossing. Sen. Kolkhorst asserted that if they could stop people coming into the country, it would get back to countries and deter people from using their life savings to try to send their children. Sen. Kolkhorst said they had a bountiful country, but they needed to know who was coming in and leaving. Sen. Kolkhorst said she was concerned that the people on the terrorism watch list were not processed in a manner that they could provide an answer to their constituents of their final disposition.
(12:30) Chair Huffman said they did work well with CBP and didn't want to leave people with the impression they didn't. Col. McCraw said they were brave and considered themselves Texans. Chair Huffman said many had been life-long residents of the border.
Maj. Gen. Tom Suelzer, Adjutant General - TMD, testified. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said the cost of their participation had not been insignificant, but neither had their activities - they'd had 342 thousand encounters with 105 thousand surrenders, 156 thousand apprehensions and 20 thousand turnbacks as well as having constructed 40 miles of temporary barriers and 20 miles of concertina wire deployment. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said by the end of the FY, they would account for $1.34 billion of OLS's total appropriation. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said he'd streamlined their administrative staff, currently had 5,464 members deployed, and 443 support staff throughout the state expending a total of $1. 35 billion for the FY. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said they were expanding the number of boat teams they had - currently 48.and believed that permanent barrier construction would cut their costs in half.
Sen. Perry asked if the deployment of concertina wire on the border was similar to that he'd seen in movies as well as what the timeframe was. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said they had 40 miles of fencing and 20 miles of concertina wire with an additional 78 miles of land contracted to erect barriers. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said that their new contractor could deploy fencing at half the cost that his department could and that they had 93 miles of concertina wire in reserve which could be deployed as they had requests to do so. Sen. Perry asked if the landowners were pushing back against such efforts or if they were asking for it. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said DPS had those discussions with landowners and there had been more subscribing to its use. Sen. Perry asked how long it took for them to deploy it. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said they could deploy it quickly, noting that they'd surrounded the mile long zone around the Anzalduas Bridge port in less than a day. Sen. Perry said he feared the area becoming a banana republic without adequate training and forces. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said their officers received a TCOLE training course to understand their legal ability to act as a force multiplier.noting it took a certified LEO to conduct the arrests and it was most often a DPS officer. Sen. Perry noted that his district was not immune from problems related to the border, there had been a bailout in Throckmorton Co., and that other states were not immune to the affects of fentanyl either.
Sen. Hinojosa said he understood most of the initial encounters did not involved armed agents and many of the people surrendered themselves to CBP. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said they'd had 105 thousand surrenders just to their agents. Sen. Hinojosa said he understood there was nearly $1 billion appropriated for barriers on 45 miles of land. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said they received reimbursement for the barriers they constructed, but were not advised on the total available for temporary or permanent barriers. Sen. Hinojosa said he was concerned that the amount as well as the length it would cover was not going to complete it for 34 years. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said he appreciated that Sen. Hinojosa understood the view from on the ground. Sen. Hinojosa said, "It's hot and dusty."
(12:46) Chair Huffman said the $900 million was being allocated to TFC for permanent border barrier construction. Chair Huffman asked if they needed additional funds to finish the year. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said they needed $38 million to finish out the FY.
Sen. Creighton asked who in TMD could brandish a weapon. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said anyone who had been certified to do so as part of military or base operations. Sen. Creighton asked if they were armed on the border so they could defend themselves if necessary. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said those who were performing security roles were trained and authorized to use the weapons they were carrying including if they needed to for self-defense. Sen. Creighton asked if that was exceptional to their day-to-day roles. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said it was normal for any deployment operations. Sen. Creighton asked who was not armed. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said those providing administrative support or constructing barriers were not armed.
Sen. Kolkhorst asked what would occur if they were in a circumstance where cartels began to shoot as there had been reported during Carrizo cane eradication, if they could shoot back. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said the source was often unidentified, and they normally retreated as they were required to de- escalate first before using deadly force. Sen. Kolkhorst asked if they could fire back if retreat was not an option like in a situation where they were on the water and the shore was obstructed by Carrizo cane. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said they would return fire in that circumstance. Sen. Kolkhorst and Maj. Gen. Suelzer discussed the authority TMD had to arrest. Maj. Gen. Suelzer concluded that it was better to act as a force multiplier so that the detainees could be properly processed. Sen. Kolkhorst asked for the enabling statute. Maj. Gen. Suelzer said it was in the constitution under Article 4 Section 7 as well as in Sections 431 and 437 of statute.
Brian Collier, ED - TDCJ, testified. Mr. Collier said they'd identified facilities on the border which could be upgraded to meet jail standards and used to house migrants arrested on misdemeanor charges to relieve border county jails. Mr. Collier reviewed measures taken including upgrading the facilities to jail standards, certifications of their corrections officers as jail officials and increasing healthcare services. Mr. Collier said they had Windham ISD providing ESL courses and were housing 434 at the Briscoe Unit which was within their capacity, but Segovia was at 105% capacity. Mr. Collier said they had identified the Lopez facility as an option which was co-located with the Segovia unit. Mr. Collier said they had 2242 beds between Briscoe and Segovia, the Lopez Unit could bring that up to 3174. Mr. Collier said there were processing centers in Val Verde and Jim Hogg Cos. and reviewed the intake procedures including medical screenings and information provided in both English and Spanish. Mr. Collier said most consultations in the unit were conducted through video conferencing, but they also had in-person and phone consultations available. Mr. Collier said 3,200 of the 5,500 people that had been in their custody under OLS had been bonded out but were released to ICE, 495 had charges dismissed, and 1,292 had been released with time served. Mr. Collier said average stay was 50 days and they had 50 in process currently. Mr. Collier said they'd spent $8.6 million on bringing facilities up to jail standards which would probably be up to $11 million by the end of the FY. Mr. Collier said they believed with current trends, they could continue operations and even bring the Lopez Unit online within their $23 million budget for OLS.
(1:02) Chair Huffman asked if all OLS detainees were at the facilities on misdemeanors. Mr. Collier said all of the non-residents were - they had some who had felony charges but all were US citizens or legal residents. Chair Huffman asked if they were processed like anyone at any other jail with the exception of the virtual hearings, and then turned over to ICE once they were fully adjudicated. Mr. Collier confirmed. Chair Huffman asked if their rights were the same as an American arrested with the same offense. Mr. Collier confirmed that as his understanding.
Sen. Perry asked if Mr. Collier had any anecdotal one-offs for what happened with those turned over to ICE upon adjudication or bonding out. Mr. Collier said he did not. Sen. Perry asked what the arrests were for. Mr. Collier listed several, noting the largest were 34% criminal trespass and 5% were in possession of child pornography or other ilegal illicit materials. Sen. Perry asked if any of the assaults were of a sexual nature. Mr. Collier said they were assaults on sworn peace officers.
Chair Huffman noted that most of those with violent offenses could not be held for long if they did not have a subsequent violent offense. Sen. Perry asked what happened if they had a warrant out from another jurisdiction. Chair Huffman said they were detained and turned over to those authorities.
Sen. West said they showed 305 inmates from the US. Mr. Collier said those driving the vehicles in human smuggling cases or were coyotes. Mr. Collier said the only US legal residents or citizens in their custody at those facilities were charged with felonies. Sen. West asked if the US citizens were a major category. Mr. Collier said it had not been initially, but it was becoming an issue. Sen. West asked if they were all charged with smuggling. Mr. Collier said that was generally the case.
(1:11) Chief Nim Kidd, ED - TDEM, testified. Chief Kidd said they'd stood up 2 intake facilities with had cost about $40 million - providing additional breakout information on TDEM expenditures associated with OLS.
Chair Huffman said, "You know what? No one has any questions."
Mike Novak, ED - TFC, testified. Mr. Novak said he didn't want to dwell on the slides unless there were specific questions and read from a letter issued by Gov. Abbott on 6/16/21. Mr. Novak noted that they had difficulty finding a project engineer with the same capabilities as USACE. Mr. Novak said they were "joined at the hip with DPS" to prioritize the areas of greatest exposure rather than "just put up wall." Mr. Novak said they had some wall on a multi- acre tract in the RGV which had been built on GLO and private land in Starr Co. and noted that they'd only taken 6 months to erect panels on that land. Mr. Novak said after that, they returned to the sdifficulty in receiving sufficient land grants to construct additional permanent barriers. Mr. Novak said their full picture of constructed barriers started from 2006 not counting the 180 miles of natural barrier. Mr. Novak discussed the areas which could and could not have barrier constructed on it - suggesting that a straight line was better than one that went on the border, so they may cut off tracts of land.
Sen. Kolkhorst asked if they had 786 miles of identified need without barriers. Mr. Novak confirmed. Sen. Kolkhorst asked if they'd been able to access any materials purchased by the Trump administration which had not been used. Mr. Novak said they would be using those materials on their second project which included the 45 miles of wall they had appropriation for. Mr. Novak said it was a significant savings to the taxpayers and noted their surplus program included both state and federal resources in the state. Sen. Kolkhorst asked how much per mile the wall cost. Mr. Novak said it was about $20 million per mile. Sen. Kolkhorst said, "[Congress is] very obsessed with the Ukraine border, but let's talk about our own for a second here."
(1:28) Sen. Kolkhorst and Mr. Novak discussed the cost further.
Chair Huffman asked what the scheduled completion was for the 45 miles. Mr. Novak said it would be mid-2024. Chair Huffman and Mr. Novak discussed the matter further.
Sen. Nichols asked about the cost of the panels. Mr. Novak said they were 30- 40% of the total cost. Sen. Nichols said he understood they hadn't considered eminent domain. Mr. Novak said it was currently off the table - noting that they were also not allowed to pressure land owners. Sen. Nichols asked how many miles they would have by the end of the calendar year. Mr. Novak said, "You need to be thinking in terms of next summer because it takes a while to ramp up." Mr. Novak said they'd likely have another 8 miles up by the end of 2023. Chair Huffman said it was on page 8 of the presentation.
Sen. Bettencourt asked how many miles of right of way they already had easement agreements for. Mr. Novak said they were nearing enough to support another 3.5 miles in the RGV. Sen. Bettencourt asked if they were looking at county foreclosures. Mr. Novak said they did have a team scrubbing that data during the title research process.
(1:41) Mr. Novak said they didn't know when the federal government would make more of the already fabricated panels available, but they had found contractors who had already purchased some of those previously available and were able to issue an RFP to secure them - noting that they had found about 14 miles worth of panels at a significant discount compared to trying to source the materials during the inflationary period. Sen. Bettencourt asked about the need to conduct flood research. Mr. Novak provided information about the types of terrain which had varying requirements for the types of right of ways necessary to construct in given areas. Mr. Novak emphasized the importance of having right of ways on contiguous miles - noting that many of the federal easements had never had wall constructed or hadn't used their entire easements. Sen. Bettencourt said, "That's a blocker at this point."
Sen. Campbell asked how much the panels from the San Diego border region cost. Mr. Novak said the panels themselves were free, but they did have to pay for freight. Sen. Campbell said she believed they should be constructing on the land they had easements while monitoring any gaps. Sen. Campbell said, "I just don't think it's funny that we won't have a wall by the fall." Sen. Campbell asked what the holdup was on the 3 miles. Mr. Novak said it had to do with design. Sen. Campbell said for accountability and responsiveness to voters, they needed some wall by the fall.
Sen. Kolkhorst said she felt the federal government should release the remaining panels and requested that they reach out to their Congressional delegation as well as partner state governors to request it be released. Sen. Kolkhorst said she didn't think it was fair to US taxpayers to pay for panels which were not in use.
Sen. Creighton discussed the significant time investment it took for most major infrastructure to plan and execute that also applied to the border wall.
(1:55) Megan LaVoie, Administrative Director - OCA, testified. Ms. LaVoie reviewed OCA's role in facilitating central magestration and other court processes for OLS. Ms. LaVoie said over 5 thousand people had been processed through their central processing centers, 80% required translators and 92% had received appointed counsel. Ms. LaVoie provided comparative numbers for processing needs on the border in Kinney Co. from 2020 and 2022.
Jeff Burkhardt, ED - TDIC, testified. Mr. Burkhardt said right to adequate representation applied to anyone in the country and the amount of indigent defense attorneys were needed depended on the number of arrests by DPS, number of magestrations referring for prosecution and number of filed charges.they were reactionary to that. Mr. Burkhardt discussed the centralization of processing and appointment of counsel to those arrested in OLS operations to ensure they had the same function as in any other case as well as creating a robust data collection and reporting system. Mr. Burkhardt said they prioritized the MAC model and their new estimates indicated they would need a total of 200 attorneys to handle the issue, providing information on the use of two public defender offices, private assigned counsel which had 43 participants, and seeing if law school clinics could handle any of the cases. none of the latter had come to fruition, but they were in discussions with UT and St. Mary's. Mr. Burkhardt said they were authorized to seek attorneys from out of state if necessary of which they had 6.
Chair Huffman asked how much the private assigned attorneys from out of state were being paid. Mr. Burkhardt said the 6 they had were working under the public defender offices and were being paid $75/hr. which was the same as their colleagues in those public defender offices.
Sen. Bettencourt asked how much public defender office staff were paid. Mr. Burkhardt said it was usually about $55 thousand a year which was not a prevailing wage. Chair Huffman said they were having the same problem with prosecutors. Mr. Burkhardt said $75/hr. was in line with other public defender office salaries, but they had explored increasing it to $100/hr. which was commensurate with pay in some high population counties.
(2:09) Mr. Burkhardt reviewed the requirements for out of state attorneys to service as public defenders under OLS. Mr. Burkhardt said they'd had about 5 thousand people processed at the two magestration facilities, 3-4 thousand had received magestration, and about 5 thousand received public defenders. Mr. Burkhardt said some who were processed outside of the central magestration hubs but were put in Briscoe or Segovia also received counsel through their office.
Chair Huffman asked how those were identified. Mr. Burkhardt said he.d worked with Mr. Collier to receive reports for needed counsel.
Tonya Alschwede, Chair - BPU, testified. Ms. Alschwede provided information on the creation of BPU and its functions during OLS.
Chair Huffman recommended anyone who wanted to now more about the border to meet with Ms. Alschwede given both her residency and involvement with BPU.
Sen. Bettencourt asked what the highest need for BPU was. Ms. Alschwede said more funding for all court process pieces including prosecutors, defense attorneys, magestration, visiting judges and interpreting services.
Sen. Hinojosa noted that the original enabling statute required that a certain level or crime be reached before BPU could become involved and they'd changed that.
Bail Bond Reform (2:20) Chair Huffman provided information on the reason for the charge and how it related to OLS.
Megan LaVoie, Administrative Director - OCA, testified. Ms. LaVoie said during her first few months she spent a lot of time implementing the Damon Allen Act. Senate Bill 6 (87-R)--which was named for a DPS trooper who had been killed in the line of duty by a person out on bail. Ms. LaVoie provided information on the public safety reporting system which allowed more information to be considered when setting bond, barred the use of PR bonds for certain offenses, and increased judicial education requirements. Ms. LaVoie said the two purposes of the PSRS was to provide additional information to magistrates when making bail decisions and to report bail decisions and related data to OCA which was put on OCA's website in a searchable manner and had over 130 thousand such forms so far with 5,700 registered users. Ms. LaVoie said the system was live on 4/1/22 and provided additional information on the contract for creating the system as well as how it was utilized throughout the process. Ms. LaVoie said they had 37,400 forms uploaded in April, an increase of 6% in May and another increase of 3% in June with the expectation that they would continue to see month-over-month increases. Ms. LaVoie said magistrate courts were the largest user at 26%, JPs accounted for 20%, and municipal courts were 16%. Ms. LaVoie said Class A misdemeanors accounted for 26% of classes of offenses uploaded to the system, 23% were Class B misdemeanors, and 18% were state jail/third degree felonies. Ms. LaVoie said small amounts of substance possession, assault causing bodily harm, and DWI were the top three specific offenses. Ms. LaVoie said 83% of forms indicated cash or surety bonds were given, 12% were PR bonds, and the average amount of bail for cash or surety bonds were just over $18,800 which was misleading because it included both felonies and misdemeanors - noting they were working to be able to separate out the data to provide better information on average bonds by class of offense. Ms. LaVoie said the average PR bond was just over $3,300. Ms. LaVoie said Bexar Co. was the lead in uploading the forms with 4,600 in the past month followed by Tarrant, Harris, Travis, El Paso, Dallas, Denton, Collin, Nueces and Montgomery Cos. followed in that order. Ms. LaVoie discussed their training efforts and user support - noting most requests were for password resets or how to get the proper DPS approval to start an account. Ms. LaVoie said magistrates were now required to complete 8 hours of training before being allowed to set bail and had to take 2 hours of CE annually thereafter. Ms. LaVoie said there were also associated DPS trainings which required different amounts of length in training depending on the type of information an account would have access to. Ms. LaVoie said charitable bail organizations were also now required to report to OCA and they had 13 from January to June including 6 in Harris, 6 in Hays and 1 in Travis. Ms. LaVoie said they received $3 million to start and maintain the PSRS, but ongoing operations would be $1.4 million per biennium going forward. Ms. LaVoie discussed challenges they'd had with compatibility and being able to connect to the DPS system. Ms. LaVoie said once it was fully integrated, requirements that there be duplicative staffing for both courts and jails at the county level should be eliminated.
Chair Huffman asked if they were confident that the counties were compliant. Ms. LaVoie said they were looking at arrest data from DPS to ascertain that, there were a few counties with no arrests entered into the system and they were all small population counties. Ms. LaVoie said they conducted direct outreach and outreach to through regional presiding judges. Ms. LaVoie said they also believed the number of reports filed for urban areas was low but likely had to do with multiple shifts as they often had magistration 24/7. Chair Huffman said they'd be evaluating what enforcement mechanisms to add to the statute in the coming session; but they'd wanted to see where it was needed first.
Sen. Bettencourt said he felt they were addressing "bond abuse" and asked for more information on the duplicative entries. Ms. LaVoie said local jail case management systems were separate from the PSRS so they were working with their vendor to create an API to integrate both systems. Sen. Bettencourt asked if there were a lot of different ones used in the state. Ms. LaVoie said there were at least 12 for the courts alone. Sen. Bettencourt and Ms. LaVoie discussed the vendor.
(2:36) Sen. Hinojosa asked if they had received any feedback from sheriffs. Ms. LaVoie said they had - they believed it made sense to have them conduct the initial entries, but there was language in the bill that only required sheriffs offices to do so if they agreed to. Ms. LaVoie said there were many disagreements of who would run the system in any given county. Sen. Hinojosa said they may be seeing some issues with counties where there were multiple smaller municipalities. Ms. LaVoie said they'd noticed on the back end that the SO would generate the initial form and the magistrate or judge would enter the completed form.
Michelle Farris, Chief of the Crime Records Division - DPS, testified. Ms. Farris said they worked closely with OCA to launch the PSRS on a short timeline and they felt the local agencies had been adopting its use at a higher rate than expected. Ms. Farris said the system queried TCIC, NCIC and conditions of bond forms they'd previously used for magistrates.
Chair Huffman asked if that provided a clear picture of the criminal and conviction history of defendants before them. Ms. Farris confirmed. Chair Huffman said she understood conditions of bond were previously required to be reported and that information was also accessible. Ms. Farris confirmed and said it was the same information a law enforcement officer would have access to. Ms. Farris said they'd seen 287 thousand inquiries into TLETs through PSRS which demonstrated it was working - noting that errors were declining as submissions were increasing. Ms. Farris said there were over 20 thousand conditions of bond entries into the system as well. Ms. Farris said all the information was available to end users.
Hon. Kim Ogg, Harris Co. DA, testified. Hon. Ogg said they found the practice of releasing violent offenders on multiple bonds to be a novel phenomenon. Hon. Ogg said they had the information in poster form and had provided slides to everyone as well.
Chair Huffman said they could use their posters. Hon. Ogg said they'd been stopped at the door with them and their security was working. Chair Huffman said, "They can bring in their posters, Austin."
Hon. Ogg said, "Graphs are easier than words sometimes." Hon. Ogg said violent crime in Harris Co. remained too high.particularly in the category of homicide. Hon. Ogg said the Damon Allen Act had been successful in reducing the number of homicides committed by people out on bond and had required bond be reset by judges with those who had pending violent offense cases before them. Hon. Ogg said they were seeing the judiciary be responsive to the new statute, but they 'd still seen some problems with the hearing officers who were neither elected nor known to the public. Hon. Ogg said the hearing officers had a pattern of releasing violent offenders on bonds that were insufficient for the crime the person was charged with or on PR bonds. Hon. Ogg said requiring bond be set by a trial judge for certain offenses had a positive effect and the ruling of CCA in Ex Parte Gomez had also assisted in ensuring that trial judges were responsible for bonds - noting Section 17.09 of the code of criminal procedure did not require judges ruling on modification for a hearing officer's bond to need "good or sufficient cause", they only needed to determine it was insufficient or excessive. Hon. Ogg said that clarifications gave judges more confidence in doing so and recommended codifying the ruling in statute. Hon. Ogg said they'd also seen the Harris Co. Bail Bond Board also enacted a rule requiring bail bond entities to collect at least 10% down on surety bonds to address an issue where they felt it was previously being used to facilitate crime by allowing for 1% down and relying on a person to come up with the rest which was often through criminal activity. Hon. Ogg said they'd also had good results asking for revocation in cases where there was a subsequent violent offense while the first was not fully adjudicate
(2:48) David Mitcham, First Assistant DA/Chief of Courts - Harris Co. DA, testified. Mr. Mitcham said Senate Bill 6 (87-R) and the ruling in Ex Parte Gomez had been key to allowing them to address the bond issue when the hearing officers had the decision on bail deferred to their judgment rather than the magistrates or trial judges.
Chair Huffman said she understood the jail in Harris Co. was not full of those with misdemeanor offenses which were non-violent. Mr. Mitcham confirmed. Chair Huffman asked, "Is there anyone in jail for a joint of marijuana in Harris Co.. Mr. Mitcham said, "If you're in jail for a joint of marijuana, you'd have to tunnel in there."
Mr. Mitcham said they had seen a 6 fold decrease in PR bonds for those charged with violent offenses. Mr. Mitcham said they felt Senate Bill 6 (87-R) had taken some of the discretion away from "faceless appointed bureaucrats." Mr. Mitcham said they had a situation recently where a person had been inspired to issue death threats to elected officials by reading the RPT platform. Mr. Mitcham said the man had used language indicating he wanted the officials to receive a "bullet to the face or brick to the back of the skull"--noting that he'd been released on a $2,500 PR bond, failed to appear and had to be brought back by federal authorities after they'd tried to apprehend him. Mr. Mitcham said the system needed transparency and accountability.
Sen. Bettencourt discussed a case where a person released on a PR bond after having beaten up a woman and using chloroform to kill her cat had subsequently murdered the woman. Sen. Bettencourt said Crime Stoppers had bad reviews despite being a bipartisan group.
Hon. Ogg said they should have some reporting requirement on bonds - noting that DWI and domestic violence were common charges where people were granted PR bonds in violation of Senate Bill 6 (87-R). Chair Huffman said they intended on putting some accountability provisions into the statute to enforce it.
(3:02) Hon. Ogg said they were also concerned about hearings no longer being taped and archived.
Sen. Bettencourt said he remembered a default to PR bonds passed by the Harris Co. Commissioners Court. Sen. Bettencourt asked if that was the issue. Hon. Ogg said that they enforced that on non-violent misdemeanors as rule 9.1 did not apply to violent offenders. Hon. Ogg said rule 9.1 did stipulate the bond needed to be set by the trial judge in felony offenses so conditions could be attached for violent offenses. Sen. Bettencourt said without the support of Crime Stoppers and the DA's office, there would have been "a crime bomb go off " in Harris Co. Mr. Mitcham agreed.
Chair Huffman said they were trying to get a constitutional amendment allowing for all violent offenders to be held without bond. Hon. Ogg said she felt that they needed as much latitude for the judges themselves as possible and the ability to hold those who had issued terroristic threats or committed violent offenses was one such tool. Chair Huffman asked if she could help whip Texas House votes. Hon. Ogg said she would because many of the victims of violent crime were from lower socio-economic groups - people who may be more likely to vote for someone from her party than the chair's.
Sen. Kolkhorst asked who appointed the hearing judges. Hon. Ogg said the hearing judges were hired by a panel of judges, but she didn't know who was on it. Sen. Kolkhorst expressed shock that the DA would not know - listing the violent offenses on the list of those who received PR bonds that had been indicted on violent felonies. Hon. Ogg said if they knew how they were hired, they'd be able to get them fired, too.
Sen. Bettencourt asserted that hearing officers could not have a background check before they were offered a job.
(3:17) Sen. Perry asked if they had data on violent offenses committed by undocumented persons. Hon. Ogg said they did not because they found it served as a barrier to participation for witnesses, victims and others who may be known to the offender. Hon. Ogg said they.d seen upticks in gang activity, domestic violence and other violent offenses. Hon. Ogg said "I'm against the crime regardless of who commits it." Sen. Perry asserted there was a direct correlation to the border surge and asked if there was a federal or state statute barring from accessing that information. Hon. Ogg said they'd look into it, but it would always be difficult as it was a federal jurisdiction. Hon. Ogg said they needed more resources - noting that other major cities across the country had 2-3 times the number of prosecutors per population as hers did.
Hon. Jennifer Tharp, Comal Co. DA, testified. Hon. Tharp listed other DAs she. d spoken to, they all had similar recommendations as Ms. LaVoie, and they needed more data for the judges to make adequate recommendations - noting that they'd been told by their magistrate that they would need an additional FTE to do so. Hon. Tharp said better data integration would represent a cost savings to the counties because they would otherwise need an additional clerk. Hon. Tharp said the jail staff was often collecting similar data and the jail staff also needed as much information as possible to house them under the right conditions. Hon. Tharp said she also had difficulty hiring prosecutors due to low pay - noting that their starting salaries were about $20 thousand less than those in Harris Co.
(3:34) Sen. Campbell thanked Hon. Tharp for her dedication to Comal Co. and asked her to provide additional information on their mental health efforts. Hon. Tharp said they were using some of their ARPA funding to construct a 16 bed facility that their LMHA would run and they hoped to receive funding from HHSC to fund the operations of. Hon. Tharp said they currently had to send people to Austin, San Antonio or more far flung areas to access mental health treatment if they needed an in-patient option.
Sen. Kolkhorst asked if those were forensic beds. Hon. Tharp said they were civil, but they were interested in standing up an in-jail competency restoration program. Sen. Kolkhorst said she understood there was funding which could be used for the purpose. Hon. Tharp said she'd been ill with COVID during the prior hearing, but hoped that the reports she'd received about it were accurate. Hon. Tharp discussed the need for funding clerks to submit public safety reports. Sen. Kolkhorst discussed the data provided by Hon. Ogg and said she felt the violent nature of society appeared to be heading in a director that required more prisons and hard-on-crime policies. Hon. Tharp discussed their efforts during COVID and noted that they only had 2 courtrooms at the beginning of the pandemic which could create a large backlog for them. which was 20 for their capacity. Hon. Tharp said they now had 4 courtrooms, but felony cases only got worse with time given location of witnesses or possibly loss of witnesses. Hon. Tharp said they were now trying cases at a rate of 2-3 per court per week. Hon. Tharp said she felt everyone wanted to feel safe in their homes and communities which was not a partisan issue. Sen. Kolkhorst said they should not withhold any amount of money to keep citizens safe and enforce the law. Sen. Kolkhorst described a case in Waller Co. where defendants in a car-jacking case had been surprised to have high bonds as they believed it was a state law that they be released on PR bonds. Sen. Kolkhorst said her constituents wanted to feel safe going to Houston to shop - noting she. d been told the Galleria was now rumored to be unsafe and she'd always thought it was a special event to go there to shop having grown up in Brenham.
Sen. Bettencourt asked what the process was for their magistrate's hiring. Hon. Tharp said it was an open process with the exception of recessing to discuss the applicants they'd determined to be qualified before hiring them in a public session. Hon. Tharp said they took bonds very seriously. Sen. Bettencourt said, "A shocking thought in modern society."
(3:46) Sen. Perry offered to introduce her to the founder of Tyler Technologies to address the data coordination. Sen. Perry asserted that the border represented a threat to communities as he believed "a foothold that you cannot erase" by criminal elements was the result. Sen. Perry discussed his position further.
Sen. Bettencourt asked about juvenile capacity. Hon. Tharp said there were problems with having adequate facilities.noting she'd had to drive one to Lubbock to access an appropriate placement.
Chair Huffman said they planned to do something about that.
Hon. Tharp said they should beef up pretrial bond supervision - noting they had several people turning up positive for the same substances they'd been charged with possessing. Hon. Tharp said initially people had been released without any condition on the types which were released and asserted a place without law enforcement was San Francisco.
Shannon Edmonds, Staff Attorney - TDCAA, testified. Mr. Edmonds said they believed the greatest improvement on the bill would be the inclusion of felony weapon possessions, domestic violence offenders, and those who had violated protective orders in possession of weapons as offenses for which a person could not qualify for a PR bond. Mr. Edmonds recommended also adding those who offended while on parole to the list as they had for probation. Mr. Edmonds said CCA guidance required BPP to take action on parolees who reoffended within 41 days while DAs had 90 days which created a catch-22 in some circumstances.
Chair Huffman said they needed to address the blue warrant issue and said they did intend to address those issues in the coming session.
Sen. Kolkhorst asked if releases of violent offenders on PR bonds was common in other cities. Mr. Edmonds said they had not seen similar occurrences in other cities - noting under the new mayor and PD chief in Dallas, crime was actually declining due to a variety of initiatives.
(4:02) Jaime Puente, Every Texan, testified on border security. Mr. Puente said, "Operation Lone Star is neither efficient nor effective policy." Mr. Puente said they viewed migration for the purpose of seeking asylum/refuge was a human right and they should find better ways of facilitating it. Mr. Puente said the various border security operations funded by the state had been "most effective at creating death on our borders." Mr. Puente said people would continue to arrive at the border seeking asylum and they should take a more humanitarian positon.
Sheriff Roy Boyd, Goliad Co., testified. Sheriff Boyd said he'd provided an update on operations in his county and they felt OLS was a lifeline for them which had helped them to a great deal. Sheriff Boyd provided an update on how they were using state grant funds to cooperate - though they still had staffing problems despite the 3-4 FTEs they'd received funding for. Sheriff Boyd said they also needed more equipment and jail capacity. Sheriff Boyd said they were not provided with the option to send those arrested under OLS to the TDCJ facilities.
Chair Huffman asked why that was. Sheriff Boyd said they'd been told they were too far out of the border region. Sen. Kolkhorst noted that Sheriff Boyd's budget requests were calculated down to the penny which she appreciated. Sen. Kolkhorst said there were a number of bailouts which occurred in corridor counties like Goliad - adding that they'd apprehended people who had been smugglers and did not have the capacity for it. Sheriff Boyd said they had a 40 bed jail that was over capacity and had found people who were unknowingly being smuggled to labor and sex trafficking operations in Houston.
(4:12) Sen. Nichols and Sheriff Boyd discussed the lack of accommodation for the Goliad offenders to be housed in the Briscoe and Segovia units. Sheriff Boyd said he.d arrest any undocumented person and "give them a ticket to the Goliad Co. jail."
Sheriff Buddy Mills, Texas Sheriffs Association, testified on bail bond reform. Sheriff Mills said they supported an integrated data system like the one Hon. Tharp had described, but it was often expensive to take on the project at the county level. Sheriff Mills said he believed a state effort would provide significant cost savings to the county by eliminating the duplication of effort.
Nick Hudson, ACLU, testified on bail bond reform. Mr. Hudson said they appreciated the aspects of Senate Bill 6 which made useful information more available to the public and requested they consider similar policies in the future. Mr. Hudson said the information they'd been provided so far had showed that failure to appear was very common - noting that the state had passed enabling legislation to enable a text service for court reminders which had been shown to improve court appearances, but the legislature had not funded the project. Mr. Hudson said he agreed with the need to make pretrial hearings publicly available.
JP J.R. Woolley, JPCA, testified. JP Woolley said they were being trained on Senate Bill 6 (87-R) and they were also concerned about the time added on duplicative efforts as the systems between the magistrates and jails had made things take three times as long as it should with regard to processing. JP Woolley said there was also an issue with data sharing across counties - noting they had to inform the judge in a case if the defendant was arrested on another felony charge which may make it difficult to determine the right person to notify when the second offense occurred in a smaller county like his.
Nikki Pressley, Texas Right on Crime, testified on bail bond reform. Ms. Pressley said they'd like to see PR and other bonds desegregated into type of crime as well as having the number of bond forfeitures. Ms. Pressley said they supported Chair Huffman's constitutional amendment efforts and noted that Harris Co. could use more resources as they were dealing with the COVID backlog on top of the Harvey backlog.
Christopher Rivera, TCRP, testified. Mr. Rivera said they believed when people had more access to PR or cash bonds, they were more likely to attend their court hearings and less likely to re-offend, but they felt Senate Bill 6 (87-R ) was inequitable with regard to who it impacted. Mr. Rivera said there were currently 9,900 people incarcerated in the Harris Co. jail - which was over capacity even with 600 being housed at the La Salle facility. Mr. Rivera said 8,046 people in the Harris Co. jail were there for pre-trial detention which accounted for 81% of the jail's current population and the financial impact was felt by counties and taxpayers - noting it was estimated jail costs were $59 /inmate/day, and the average pre-trial detention was 210 days which cost $99 million to Harris Co. taxpayers. Mr. Rivera said it also harmed the detainees and their families - citing the case of Billie Davis who had been sent to La Salle and had been found unresponsive in an administrative cell. Mr. Rivera said Mr. Davis. bail had been set at $25 thousand and had the bail been set at a level which reflected his income level that he'd be alive still. Mr. Rivera recommended favoring programs that provided automatic reminders and transportation to low income individuals.
(4:25) Chair Huffman recessed the committee subject to call of the chair.