Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced plans for the upcoming Texas legislative session that he says will ease the burden on the Texans he says "stand between society and anarchy." His ideas blend two of Patrick's favorite political causes: love for law enforcement and hatred of property taxes.
“We want Texas’ bravest men and women to know when they put on their uniform and badge each day to protect us, we will have their back should they encounter tragedy before returning home,” Patrick, flanked by representatives from police unions across the state, said at a Wednesday press conference. “This initiative, modeled after legislation previously passed for combat veterans killed in the line of duty, will exempt surviving spouses of fallen officers from having to pay property taxes on their homes, even if the home no longer carries a mortgage. This will help ensure surviving spouses will never be taxed out of their homestead.”
Ashlee Hardy, whose husband Wes Hardy, a Plano police officer, was killed in a 2007 traffic accident, said that property taxes threatened her family after her husband died.
"Paying the property taxes and having to figure out where that money was going to come from – it's a lot of money on top of raising my twin daughters. [Wes Hardy dying] shattered our world, and the first thing I said to myself was, 'How am I gonna pay the bills?'" she said.
So far this year, according to Patrick, 17 of the Texas' 80,000 law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty. In addition to the property tax plan, Patrick also announced an initiative that he says will lower that number: outfitting the 40,000 officers he says are regularly on patrol with tactical vests capable of withstanding high-powered rifle fire. The plan, Patrick said, would cost about $20 million.
"One of the things that was clear [after the July 7 ambush that killed five police officers in Dallas] was that we were not giving our law enforcement officers the protection they needed. Everyone was wearing a vest that day and those who were shot in the vest didn't survive."
State Senator Kevin Eltife recently started a public-private partnership in Tyler that will provide vests for the Tyler Police Department.
“These vests are a critical priority for our local police, and we will always take that extra step where public safety is concerned,” Eltife said. “That’s why I joined hands with the mayor and business leaders in my local community to split the cost and provide these safer bullet-proof vests for our officers."
Patrick wants the state to take over and buy every officer a vest, but that could be difficult in what is expected to be a tight budget year.