Today, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives held a virtual press conference to announce their plans to file the George Floyd Act during the upcoming 87th Legislative Session.
The act is a comprehensive piece of criminal justice legislation named in honor of George Floyd, a native of Houston who died by a police officer’s use of unnecessary force this past May. The George Floyd Act is the product of a series of town halls the TLBC held following Floyd’s tragic death to discuss dismantling the systemic racism written into our state laws and policies. The legislation is authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and will be sponsored in the Texas Senate by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas).
During the press conference, members of the TLBC discussed the specifics of the legislation (which can be read in more detail here). In brief, the act would eliminate qualified immunity for police officers, limit the use of force and require bystander intervention by other officers in cases of excessive force.
“Today, we are here to open up that road to equal justice for all Texans, including black Texans and brown Texans,” said Rep. Harold Dutton (Houston), chair of the TLBC. “These dead ends have got to go.”
The George Floyd Act would also pick up where previous criminal justice reform legislation left off last Session. For example, this bill will limit arrest and jail for fine-only violations, a key item for reform from Rep. Garnet Coleman’s 2017 Sandra Bland Act.
“The fury we all feel over this is, in part, because of the crime for which George Floyd died,” said Coleman (D-Houston), a long-time Democratic representative from Harris County. “This bill will finally limit an officer’s ability to arrest (for something so minor).”
Several individuals outside of the Caucus were present at the conference to show their support for the bill. Tezlyn Figaro joined as a representative of the George Floyd Foundation. Attorney Benjamin Crump, who has represented the families of many killed by police brutality, was there. Members of Floyd’s family also attended to honor George’s memory, and speak to the need for legislation like this.
“I wish you guys could have met (George). … He was a great man,” said Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s youngest brother. “I know he’s going to see this and be cheering us on.”
Bill author, Rep. Thompson, noted the Caucus plans to collaborate with other organizations, coalitions and state leaders to ensure the bill gets passed.
“I have not had the privilege yet (to speak with Gov. Abbott about the legislation),” she said. “I hope I have the opportunity, and I look forward to the opportunity.”
The event closed out with final remarks from Chair Dutton.
“We recognize there’s opposition,” said Dutton. “Some of the opposition is simply because this is the Black Caucus. But that’s never stopped any one of us from doing what we think is right.”
The Texas HDC live-tweeted the press conference. Catch up on what you may have missed by checking out our Twitter thread.