The Texas Legislative session is underway, and lawmakers are reviewing many bills related to family violence. Below are the Texas Council on Family Violence’s (TCFV) priorities for the 87th session, based on concerns identified by advocates, allied professionals, and survivors in Texas:
State Budget: Secure full funding, as well as additional funds, to address capacity and barriers in an effort to increase access to services for survivors
The Issue: Current funding for family violence centers does not begin to address the dangerously growing capacity crisis. Last year, approximately 44% of survivors were turned away from shelter solely due to lack of space. Although shelters and programs maximize scarce resources to save lives, they are still unable to support a significant number of survivors’ needs. This need was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as staff were considered essential workers and shifted to provide services in line with health department guidelines, as well as expand to a virtual model, all while receiving the same, or more, requests for shelter.
The Solution: TCFV is requesting that the legislature support the HHSC base request of $65.3 million dollars, and ask for an additional $13 million to address the shelter capacity crisis and barriers survivors face around economics, housing, legal assistance, and mental health supports. TCFV is also advocating for funding of Domestic Violence High Risk Teams and Battering Intervention Prevention Programs to increase safety for survivors and support offender accountability.
SB 343: Achieving greater safety through conditions of bond in family violence cases
The Issue: Judges may issue Conditions of Bond (COB) to protect survivors when they magistrate a person arrested for a domestic violence related offense. However, because law enforcement officers are unable to verify COBs in the Texas Crime Information Center (TCIC), they generally cannot enforce these conditions. Further, there is no directive to inform victims when the conditions of bond are issued for their safety.
The Solution: SB 343 amends Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to require timely victim notification of conditions of bond and their entry into the TCIC.
SB 1967: Creation of a statewide task force on firearm transfer
The Issue: Of the 150 Texas women killed by their partner in 2019, 63% were murdered by a firearm. Most courts in Texas lack any kind of firearm transfer protocols to implement laws long on the books that ensure these dangerous individuals do not have a firearm when the lethality risk is highest.
The Solution: The task force created through SB 1967 will ensure courts and communities have the support and standards to craft their own safe firearm transfer process for prohibited possessors, consistent with state law and supported by best practices that address admonishment, transfer, storage, documentation, and return.
What can you do support survivors this legislative session?
Please reach out to the TCFV Policy Team at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or for more information on our priorities, or on any other related legislation, and to be added to the Capitol Crew list serve for alerts and updates!
Guest blog written by the Texas Council on Family Violence.