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Public Integrity Unit employees get layoff notices

What is to come if nothing changes.

Rosemary Lehmberg

Travis County commissioners are still holding out hope the state will fund the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, but took an early step to let employees know their jobs are on the line.

Voting unanimously Tuesday, commissioners are giving layoff notices to more than 30 employees whose jobs will end Sept. 30. Still, if the state ends up funding the unit — either through the Legislature or department grants — or if the county ends up paying the $3.7 million to keep the unit going, those staffers will come back.

[…]

State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, filed a bill on Monday to override the governor’s veto, after filing a similar bill in the last special session to do the same thing. That bill was left pending in committee after a hearing. Deece Eckstein, Travis County Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator, said it’s not clear if such a bill can override the governor’s veto: “It’s a new parliamentary issue. … We won’t know until it gets to the House floor.”

[PIU Chief Gregg] Cox said the state’s Department of Insurance, which refers cases to the unit in Travis County, pays the salaries of attorneys in the District Attorney’s offices of Dallas, Harris and Bexar counties.

Commissioners discussed having other counties help pay for the unit, but did not get into details.

“A lot of these options we can deliberate in the future,” County Judge Sam Biscoe said.

Rep. Turner tried to override Perry’s veto in the first special session, but it did not get a vote, having come up late in the session. He had the support of Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts and at least the tacit support of Speaker Straus, so this effort does have a chance. I don’t know if he;ll be able to find enough votes, however, and as noted nobody knows if what he’s doing is legal, as it’s never been tried before. No time like the present, I say. If the Lege doesn’t override the veto, then Travis County will have to consider its options. Laying off all the employees is not a viable option, that much I know.

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