Governor promises action to family of George Floyd

by | Jun 18, 2020 | Opinion

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Ab­bott pledged to institute po­lice reforms when he met with the Houston family of George Floyd, who was handcuffed and killed by police in front of a Minneapolis convenience store on May 25.

Video footage showed the 46-year-old Floyd subdued by four uniformed officers and pinned down on the pavement, one of them pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd lost conscious­ness and was later pronounced dead. Outrage over Floyd’s death and other police-involved deaths of African-Americans in­spired protest marches in cities across Texas, the United States and around the world over the last three weeks.

Abbott told reporters he met with the Floyd family in their home June 9 to assure them that George Floyd did not die in vain and that his life “would be the stimulant for reforms that will make Texas and the country a better place.”

Abbott said there was no rea­son for a police officer to have his knee on Floyd’s neck, that there must be better strategies for police to use, and that re­forms would be a priority in the 87th Texas Legislature.

Reform work is ahead

Texas House County Af­fairs Committee Chair Garnet Coleman and Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair John Whitmire, both D-Houston, on June 9 announced they would continue to work together on criminal justice reform in the upcoming legislative session scheduled to convene in Janu­ary.

Whitmire, the most-senior member of the Texas Senate, and Coleman, who is the fifth-most-senior member of the Texas House, released a joint statement, saying: “The recent murder of longtime Houston resident George Floyd by a law enforcement officer in Minne­apolis is a painful reminder to us that though we have trav­eled so far, there is still a long way to go. The passion shown by the millions of people who have made their voices heard against racism have helped fuel our commitment to continue to work towards justice.”

Whitmire and Coleman said their goal is to “ensure equal treatment for people of color, increase transparency and ac­countability and keep both law enforcement and the public safer.”

COVID measures increase

Texas is increasing efforts to identify and expand COVID-19 testing operations in under­served and minority communi­ties that have been dispropor­tionately impacted by the virus.

Gov. Abbott on June 8 said the Texas Division of Emergen­cy Management is coordinating with local governments, public health officials and emergency management entities to speed up testing and identification of COVID-19 cases.

Abbott said walk-up and drive-thru testing sites are in place and expanding in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, Abilene, the Rio Grande Valley, the Coastal Bend, Laredo, Mid­land-Odessa and particularly in urban areas where large-scale protests have taken place. “As many Texans continue to gather for protests,” Abbott said, “the state is also taking steps to ad­dress potential surges in CO­VID-19 cases. We are ensur­ing that Texans can continue to safely exercise their First Amendment Rights while put­ting protocols in place to iden­tify and mitigate any spread of COVID-19.”

Cumulative figures posted June 14 by the Texas Depart­ment of State Health Services showed some 87,854 people in Texas diagnosed with CO­VID-19 and 1,976 deaths con­firmed from the virus pandemic.

Ryan: Follow protocols

With plans to reopen Texas while COVID-19 testing, cases and deaths continue to increase, the governor’s office on June 10 posted a public service an­nouncement delivered by Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.

In the short video titled “Don’t Be A Knucklehead” Ryan encourages Texans to follow established COVID-19 protocols: “Wash your hands, socially distance yourself from others and wear a mask. Do the right thing. Look out for your fellow Texans and together we’ll make it through this,” Ryan says.

Revenue to be distributed

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on June 10 announced his office would send cities, coun­ties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $690.4 million in local sales tax alloca­tions for the month of June.

The revenue to be distributed is 11.7% less than the amount distributed in June 2019, a de­cline Hegar attributed to social distancing statewide in April. The June 2020 allocation per­centages, based on sales made in April by businesses that re­port tax monthly, break down as follows: cities, down 11.1%; counties, down 7.2%; tran­sit systems, down 17.4%; and special purpose districts, down 4.4%

For more stories like this, see the June 18 issue or subscribe online.

By Ed Sterling, member services director for the Texas Press Association

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