AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – In what is an emerging theme at the Texas Capitol, key Republican leaders and lawmakers say they want to "rein-in" district attorneys in Texas who disregard state law.
State Representative David Cook, R-Mansfield, filed a bill in the House, HB 1350, and State Senator Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, filed an identical bill in the Senate.
Cook said, "This is a very straight forward bill."
He said district attorneys who've pledged not to prosecute certain marijuana crimes or abortion cases are placing their personal politics over their job of evaluating each criminal case.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, a new state law went into effect that bans abortions with the only exception to save the mother's life.
The bills would allow the Texas Attorney General to sue the DAs, and if they're found guilty in a jury trial, they could automatically be removed from office.
In addition, the DAs would face up to a $1,500 civil penalty for the first violation and up to $25,500 for each additional violation.
Cook said, "It's ridiculous that a step like this has become necessary. But when you have district attorneys that are being defiant saying we're not going to prosecute certain crimes, then you have to have a process in place that provides repercussions for making bad decisions."
During the opening day of the new legislation session last week, newly re-elected House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, made a statement showing support for legislation. "If rogue District Attorneys will not uphold the law, what progress are we really making? It is time to rein them in."
In October, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick made similar remarks during an interview with CBS 11. "For the judges and DA's who will not follow the law and prosecute crimes under Texas law, we've got to work to find a path to be sure that they can't stay in office."
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, a Democrat, rejected the Supreme Court's ruling overturning Roe v Wade last year.
But he said he "would continue to use discretion to pursue justice" in these cases.
After he was re-elected in November, Creuzot rescinded his prior policy of not prosecuting class "B" misdemeanor thefts of food, diapers, and baby formula between $100 and $750 unless the evidence showed it was for economic gain.
Cook said, "I want to applaud him for doing so."
State Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, said he disagrees with Cook's bill. "I think it's just a political statement."
When asked how concerned he is the bill would pass, West said, "Anytime a bill is filed, you have to be concerned. But I'm not going to take it seriously until it gets some legs."
CBS 11 emailed two officials with the Texas District and County Attorneys Association but didn't hear back.
The organization's website referred to the legislation as "shots across the bow" and "a narrative that has apparently become part of the partisan culture war at the national level."
Cook responded by saying, "It's quite frankly the opposite of what the statement says. The purpose of this bill is to remove politics from the courtroom."
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