Texas this week: State Senator Roland Gutierrez discusses bills filed in response to the Uvalde school shooting

This week Senator Gutierrez drew attention to four bills, including legislation that would allow Uvalde families to sue the police.

Austin, Texas – Families of loved ones killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting traveled to Austin this week to campaign on the legislation with State Senator Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio).

Three things to know in Texas politics

1. The Texas oil and gas industry is paying a record amount in taxes

Last year was a record year for the Texas oil and gas industry. the Texas Oil and Gas Association released its annual report on Monday, showing the industry paid $24.7 billion in taxes and government royalties in fiscal 2022. The previous record was $16 billion in 2019. Organization executives say it’s unlikely they can replicate those numbers, but add are things lawmakers can do to help the industry thrive including ensuring the reliability of the electricity grid and lowering property taxes.

2. Bill filed to give Texas teachers a $15,000 raise

Austin State Assemblyman James Talarico (D) introduced a bill this week to give all classroom teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses in Texas a $15,000 pay rise. House bill 1548 would give other school staff a 25% raise. The pay rises would be paid for with the state’s budget surplus of around $32 billion. Currently, teacher salaries in Texas are about $7,500 below the national average.

3. The Texas legislature denounces a law intended to limit the purchase of real estate

Texas Democratic lawmakers stood together Wednesday to denounce the case Senate bill 147. Republican proposal State Senator Lois Kohlkorst of Brenham would ban green card holders, asylum seekers and companies from China, Iran, the North Koran and Russia from buying real estate in Texas. In a statement, Senator Kohlkorst said the legislation was intended to address national security concerns, but opponents say it is racist to deny a select group of people the ability to buy land because they were born there. Opponents plan to hold a rally to condemn the bill at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Capitol

State Senator Roland Gutierrez discusses Uvalde-related bills

Eight months had passed on Tuesday since 19 children and their two teachers were brutally murdered at Robb Primary School in Uvalde. Some of the victims’ families traveled to the Capitol on this somber anniversary to bring attention to a series of bills by their State Senator, Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio).

Ashley Goudeau: You filed a number of bills in response to the Robb Elementary School shooting. This week you talked about four of them really pushing for accountability. Let’s start with Senate Bill 575 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 12, which would end qualified immunity for law enforcement officers. Talk to us about it.

State Senator Roland Gutierrez: “Yes, I mean, I think it’s about time. Look, we all respect cops. We all respect our police departments. But at the end of the day, it’s probably the only profession you can’t sue in a very effective way. And if there is negligence, you should be able to sue law enforcement. We see, you know, things in the United States like we saw in Memphis. So whether it’s, you know, violence from a police officer to a civilian or whether it’s the kind of negligence that we saw in Uvalde where for 77 minutes not one of those police officers from any state agency did anything, to help the children who were yards away, we have to be able to give people access to the judiciary and the courthouse and let the courts decide whether someone is entitled to protection or not. We can’t just say, ‘Look, you can sue the lawyer, you can sue the doctor, you can sue your teacher, but you can’t sue a cop.’ Makes no sense.”

Ashley Goudeau: You know, but this isn’t the first time lawmakers have tried to pass a similar law. Members of the Legislative Black Caucus attempted to end immunity for officers back in 2021 in response to the death of George Floyd. That’s where it failed. Do you think there is more appetite for this type of legislation in this session?

State Senator Roland Gutierrez: “Well, you know, I don’t know. I mean what I know what I’ve asked for is also another simultaneous resolution to try and get permission for these families to sue the state in this one case and hopefully we can make that happen. We do that occasionally, that is, we grant permission and lift sovereign immunity. Again, I think everyone out there listening respects law enforcement, but under no specific circumstances should we respect the type of law enforcement that lets children die for 77 minutes, we should respect law enforcement that intentionally beats people. That is not right. You know, we see gunfights involving officers of unarmed people across the country. You see incidents like George Floyd. We have to be accountable in every profession. How come, as a lawyer, I can sue just about any profession other than the police? Just doesn’t make sense.”

Ashley Goudeau: You also propose a victim compensation fund. Talk to us about this legislation.

State Senator Roland Gutierrez: “Over the summer we filed a victim compensation fund that was based more on the negligence we had in this community. So unless my Republican colleagues want to address this negligence through some sort of legislation, we have rather offered a general victim compensation fund for anyone who would have lost their child in a school. It is retroactive to five years to also cover the Santa Fe shooting. At the end of the day, when people trust the state of Texas with their kids eight hours a day, when something happens to your kid at school and your kid doesn’t come home, like those poor families in Uvalde, imagine this: you send their children to school and they never came home. Then the state of Texas should compensate you. The state of Texas should compensate you if you’re injured, if you’re physically injured, if you’re mentally injured, and certainly if you pass it on, and that’s what this law is trying to do.”

Ashley Goudeau: You have tabled some other bills and say you will table more, totaling 20 bills, in response to the shooting. I think what’s most notable is some of your suggestions about guns, you know, raising the age, banning some types of firearms. Talk to us about some of these bills.

State Senator Roland Gutierrez: “Yes. So we’ve raised the age limit, or at least we’re asking for the age limit to be raised to 21. Most Republican voters agree with us on that. Under no circumstances should you be able to buy a long gun, an AR-15, like these people could, like this boy could. And that’s why we’re demanding this. We’re demanding protection orders for extreme risks. We require background checks. You know, the things that make the most sense that people want on both sides of the aisle, all but the Republican faction in the Senate and House of Representatives. And that’s why we have to deal with it. We need to get voters to call them saying, “Let’s have common sense gun solutions.” Look, I’m a gun owner. I understand. I represent South and West Texas. My constituents want common sense solutions. They don’t want their guns taken away from them. I understand that. We only require guns with common sense security. Over the next few weeks we will submit 21 bills, when we are ready, relating to Uvalde.”

Ashley Goudeau: Have you been able to talk to the Lieutenant Governor about some of these gun specific suggestions?

State Senator Roland Gutierrez: “The Deputy Governor and I have had talks in the past. We continue to have talks. We, you know, he’s a pragmatic person. I think he’ll take a look at what’s on site. I think he’ll look at the polls. I think he’ll look at what Republican voters can live with and hopefully do something right for the people of Texas. It is my expectation, or at least my hope, that the Texas Senate will come up with something that is responsible, something that is right and just, not just for these families in Uvalde, but for Texans across Texas to understand that their children are safer in our schools. We’re busy, and we’re doing it. I don’t have that much time for it. So the next few weeks are important and we will continue to be in dialogue with the Lieutenant Governor and others.”

Ashley Goudeau: We talked about this bill or these bills earlier this week, sorry. They were surrounded by parents and relatives of some of the victims. They have invited them to speak about all that they have lost and the need for action that they see. I want you to talk to us about what it means to you personally to be able to give them a voice, to give them this platform in the Capitol.

State Senator Roland Gutierrez: “You know, these people are my friends and they have become my friends through all of this. I finally signed the non-disclosure agreement with the Ministry of Public Security and I’ve seen hours and hours of bodycam footage. And I’ve seen kids just have their faces blown off. I’ve seen dead bodies of children just piled on top of each other. I’ve seen a teacher draped over several children to protect them and her and all these little babies who are dead. I’ve seen things I never wanted to see in my life and I can’t stop seeing them every night. I don’t want that to happen to anyone in Texas again. And these families are just incredible people and they’re incredibly strong and they don’t want that to happen to anyone. They certainly don’t want their children’s deaths to be in vain. And that’s why they will work for it. You will continue to work for it. You do it alone. I love her for it and I pray for her every night.”

The bills that Sen. Gutierrez discussed in his press conference are Senate Act 575 to end qualified immunity for peace officers, Simultaneous resolution of the Senate 12 Allow Robb Elementary School families to sue the state SKR 11 to urge Congress to hold gun manufacturers and dealers liable and SB574 set up a permanent victim compensation fund. The senator said he plans to hold a press conference next week to discuss another bill.

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https://www.kvue.com/article/news/politics/texas-this-week/texas-this-week-roland-gutierrez-uvalde-school-shooting/269-676e8a4f-64f7-4a06-899c-55161591b0c8 Texas this week: State Senator Roland Gutierrez discusses bills filed in response to the Uvalde school shooting

Laura Coffey

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