2017 was a very difficult session dominated by competing Republican party electoral narratives by the Speaker and the Lt. Gov and focused on immigration and the bathroom bill. The competing narratives about what it means to be a Texas Republican resulted in a huge slowdown in the overall passage of bills, with dozens of bills held up at the Speaker and Lt. Governor level, crossing to the opposite chamber but not getting a referral to committee. On criminal justice in particular, we faced additional pressure from the Governor to “back the blue” and sit on the sidelines while the police unions passed a Christmas list of new protections against misconduct, “driver education” as the solution to roadside escalation/use of force, and more.
However, we did not sit on the sidelines! The AJC Legislative team showed up, had its own priorities, generated new and unexpected bill momentum for real police reforms like non-jailables, and also provided support for the entire criminal justice reform movement as well as support for certain education and housing bills. AJC volunteers became familiar faces in dozens of offices supporting Raise the Age, bail reform, school suspensions, mental health diversion, police reforms including ending arrests for non-jailable offenses, and much more. By supporting so many different bills early in the process, AJC was welcomed into offices and able to have discussion with staff even when we opposed bills. Many offices complimented AJC on our persistence and dedication. Offices started soliciting our help as session progressed.