Billions on the table as Texas lawmakers look at bill proposals

Joe Straus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lawmakers can start filing bills on Monday for the 2017 legislative session that begins in January.

Bulletproof vests 

The first item is from the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. He wants to give nearly 60,000 police officers in Texas bulletproof vests capable of stopping high-caliber rounds. This comes after the deadly shooting of five Dallas police officers in July.

“I would love to do it actually as soon as we can so we can start this money flowing even if we don’t actually pass the budget until later,” Patrick said he wants to get the police departments funding for better body armor at the beginning of 2017.

The total price tag would be an estimated $15 to 20 million. Prices for the extra 20 pounds of gear start around $400 a piece, according to Patrick. Currently, most departments use the lightweight Kevlar vests that only shield against a shotgun or pistol rounds.

Border security

The Department of Public Safety plans to ask for $1 billion for border security. That money would help pay for 250 additional troopers, six air-crafts, 12,000 vehicles and 5,000 more cameras.

DPS Director Col. Steve McCraw says there has been an increase in seizures and lower levels of crime along the border.

Child Protective Services

There is also a plan to approve more than $60 million to hire more caseworkers at Child Protective Services. Last month, CPS got emergency funding to help find hundreds of at-risk children.

Last year, 171 children died due to neglect and abuse in Texas. The head of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) wants to hire 550 new caseworkers and child investigators but many worry without a salary bump the new hires will join hundreds who quit less than a year on the job.

School Funding

Governor Greg Abbott has issued a statement saying school funding will be tackled during the regular session. Some of the items include an education savings account, and a five percent increase to property taxes to help fund Texas public schools.

State lawmakers are only required to pass the budget when they meet every two years. During the last legislative session, 350 bills were filed on the first day. In total, there were more than 6,000 bills filed. Of those bills, 1,300 were passed and an estimated 40 were vetoed.

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