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Bill to neuter Public Integrity Unit advances

Still a bad idea.

Sen. Joan Huffman

A measure that would take the state’s public corruption-fighting unit out of the hands of the Travis County district attorney’s office and place it in the Texas attorney general’s office was approved Monday by the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The 7-2 vote in favor of Senate Bill 10, authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, now moves to the full Texas Senate for a vote.

“We can’t create a perfect system here, you know,” Huffman said. “I’ve tried to create a scheme where a lot of people have input.”

Under Huffman’s bill, public corruption accusations, which are currently handled by a public integrity unit within the Travis County DA’s office, would first be investigated by the attorney general’s office with assistance from a Texas Department of Public Safety ranger assigned to that office.

If the attorney general review found that the complaint had merit, the case would be transferred to the home county of the public official, and the local district attorney in that county would pursue the case, taking it to a grand jury there.

Huffman said her bill makes the process fairer and removes the politicized nature of the office.

See here for the background. I agree with Texans for Public Justice:

Statement by Craig McDonald, director, Texans for Public Justice.

“SB 10 is a politicians dream, a virtual get-out-of-jail-free card for public officials. SB 10 creates a special legal system reserved for politicians only — a system designed to end corruption prosecutions, not pursue them.

The bill is another attack on local control by big government Republicans. It strips all county district attorneys of their traditional power to prosecute corruption within their own jurisdictions. It transfers that power directly to the Attorney General.

Senator Huffman claims her bill will “restore public confidence” in corruption investigations and then hands those cases to a partisan attorney general, himself under a cloud of corruption allegations. In fact, punishing a corrupt politician under SB 10 requires the unanimous approval of the attorney general, the Texas Rangers, a state judge AND a district or county attorney

SB 10 will likely breed more corruption by advertising the fact that there is no functioning deterrent.”

Here’s their analysis of how this change might affect investigations of officeholders going forward. I’ll just say again, if Sam Houston were the Attorney General, this bill would not have been filed. Trail Blazers has more.

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