Subscribe to receive our Floor Reports covering all the action on the Texas House and Senate floor!
Some changes to this bill were made in the House Committee Substitute. At its core, this bill remains supportable under our principles as described by our vote recommendation notes. One significant update is that any ongoing cases being handled by the current Public Integrity Unit would still be handled by that office unless that office decided to transfer the cases elsewhere. We continue to support SB 10.
The second chamber sponsor is Representative Phil King.
Original Analysis Below:
Under current law investigation and prosecution of crimes related to public administration, elections, insurance fraud, and motor vehicle fuels tax fraud are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Public Integrity Unit (PIU) within the office of the Travis County District Attorney. SB 10 would move the PIU and its associated duties to the office of the Attorney General.
In addition to relocation the PIU, this legislation would require that the unit also include a Texas Ranger who would have to concur with the results of any investigation before the case could move forward. If the PIU and the Texas Ranger agreed that sufficient evidence existed to prosecute, the case would then be transferred to the appropriate court with jurisdiction over the defendant's home town and a local prosecutor would be appointed.
The bill also provides for the Attorney General's office to assist in the case at the prosecutor's request, authorizes the prosecutor to terminate the case on the basis of insufficient evidence, and establishes a process for appointing a new prosecutor in the event of the original prosecutor's recusal.
A government that is limited will always be on guard against public corruption. This legislation advances limited government in at least three ways.
1. By moving the authority to prosecute public officials in Texas from a county prosecutor to office of the statewide elected Attorney General, this legislation would vest the authority in a more appropriate office.
2. By including a Texas Ranger in the new PIU and requiring that the Ranger concur with the initial investigation before it could move forward, and by having the case ultimately investigated and advanced by a prosecutor with jurisdiction over the defendant's hometown this legislation provides multiple backstops against the possibility of a purely partisan political prosecution.
3. By requiring public corruption cases to be handled by courts with jurisdiction over the defendant's home town, this legislation promotes due process and provides for a better chance for defendants to be tried by a jury of his peers.
For these reasons we consider SB 10 to advance the principle of limited government and we support its adoption by the legislature.