Looking Out for Our First Responders

April 28, 2017

By Rep. Jason Villalba

As a State Representative, my top priority is making sure that our families are safe from those who would seek to harm us. For me, that starts by supporting our first responders. Since my first day in the Legislature, I have been a tireless advocate for law enforcement and all other first responders.

In 2013, I passed HB 1009, which created the first ever School Marshal program in America. By appointing well-trained, covert and armed school marshals to protect our students in public schools, Texas has taken a bold step to prevent the types of tragedies that we have seen in other parts of the country. During the 84th Legislative Session, I passed legislation to expand the School Marshal program to include Texas community and junior colleges. This session, I filed HB 867 to allow Texas private schools to implement the School Marshal program.

This session, in response to the tragic events in my hometown of Dallas, where we lost five of Dallas’ finest, I carried Senator West’s SB 12 in the House, which provides for more secure bulletproof vests for police officers in Texas. The bill provides vests for 50,000 to 60,000 Texas officers to better protect them from high-caliber bullets.

As well, in response to the continuing violence against first responders, I filed HB 429 in collaboration with the state and local law enforcement authorities. Under HB 429, an attack on a first responder would be considered a hate crime – which provides that those who attack first responders would be subject to graduated penalties.

Finally, I am also concerned about safety at our local places of worship. Therefore, I filed HB 659 to allow churches and synagogues to commission private security officers or hire private citizens not affiliated with a security company. HB 659 allows churches and synagogues to hire these volunteers so long as they have undergone the required training and passed a simple background check. HB 659 provides a lower priced security option and, if the guard is a parishioner, it can decrease travel time in case of emergency.

As a champion of conservative values, I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Texas House to protect our first responders and the good people of Texas that I am blessed to represent.

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