Gov. Abbott says new proposal would strip cities of ‘annexation powers’ for defunding police

September 12, 2020 in News by RBN Staff

by Kate Winkle and John Engel

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott announced another legislative proposal Thursday in an attempt to thwart cities from taking steps to “defund police.”

Abbott explained that his latest plan would mean cities that defund police departments “will forever lose their annexation powers, & any areas and any residents that have ever been annexed by that city in the past will have the power to dis-annex them from the city.”

He added that this would leave Austin in particular “no choice” but to restore funding to its police department. He also used the event to call on leaders and those living in the state to sign a pledge to “Back the Blue.”

When asked how he defines “defunding,” Abbott would not offer an answer, instead saying that will be up to the state legislature to determine.

In mid-August, the governor proposed legislation that would freeze property tax increases for cities that move funding from their police department. The proposal came after Austin City Council decided to transition $150 million from the Austin Police Department over the next year. About $20 million of that would be immediately reallocated to other areas related to public health and safety.

Mayor Steve Adler released the following statement Thursday afternoon not long after the governor’s news conference ended:

“To be clear – Austin City leaders have neither defunded the police department nor support doing so. I’m unaware of any elected official who believes differently. The Governor’s pledge is political theatre intended to scare and distract us from important public safety conversations about opening our children’s schools and saving lives during the pandemic or whether police should be mental health first responders and social workers. Austin is the safest big city in Texas and among the few safest in the country. We’ll continue to make an already safe city even safer and, importantly, safer for everyone. As we get closer to November, expect more distractions that intend to divide rather than unite.”

The governor is also asking people to sign the pledge on his campaign website, then post about it on social media on Thursday. He also plans to hold a press conference that day to sign the pledge himself, alongside other state leaders.

“Some cities in Texas want to defund and dismantle police departments in our state,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “This reckless action invites crime into our communities and it threatens the safety of all Texans including law enforcement officers in our families.”