AUSTIN -- Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is pushing two initiatives in the upcoming legislative session stemming from the deadly police shootings in Dallas.
When a gunman opened fire at a peaceful Black Lives Matter march, killing five police officers, the fatal shots from an assault-style rifle pierced the protective vests worn by three of the victims.
"It's just really unacceptable for us not to give our police officers the best equipment," Patrick said at a Wednesday news conference, where he was joined at the Texas Capitol by members representing the state's largest law enforcement unions.
Patrick is asking the Eighty-fifth Texas Legislature for enough money to buy tougher, rifle-resistant vests for every law enforcement officer on patrol. He estimates some 40,000, at upwards of $400 each, would cost the state $15 to 20 million. At a time when all state agencies have been asked to cut their budgets, Patrick argues it's important enough to cut the check -- then find the money later.
"It's the least we can do," Patrick told media.
The Republican lieutenant governor also called for legislation to exempt from property taxes the spouse of any first responder killed in the line of duty until they remarry. Among those at Wednesday's news conference was Ashlee Hardy, whose husband, Wes, a Plano motor officer, was killed in 2007.
"It's a lot of money on top of raising my twin daughters. My husband was the breadwinner," Hardy told reporters. "When he was killed, it shattered our world, and the first thing I said to myself was, 'How am I going to pay the bills?'"
"This is an outstanding effort to show the rest of this nation exactly where law enforcement stands in the state of Texas, and we applaud that," concluded Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback, president of the Sheriffs Association of Texas.
Outgoing state Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) joined Patrick, who credited the East Texas lawmaker for inspiring the body armor initiative. Eltife spearheaded a public-private partnership in Tyler that raised more than $250,000 to outfit local law enforcement with the new vests. Patrick called the initiatives a first step.
"We have to obviously improve policing in every way we can so we have a great relationship with all the communities we serve," said Patrick, "But first and foremost, we have to protect the lives of police officers."