KILLEEN, TX — The 2021 legislative session is just around the corner. The Texas State House of Representative website reports over 500 bills have already been filed. Since the state legislature only meets every other year, there’s a whole lot to discuss.
It looks like it is going to be a busy session for state legislators as they tackle a variety of topics, from police reform, abortion restrictions, education funding, healthcare, and so much more. They will be navigating, through it all with a reduced budget.
However, there is one bill in particular that has the attention of a Killeen family.
“I feel like that’s the reason for my brother's death. I feel like the actions taken on him and against him was for the show,” said Kimberly Ambler-Jones.
Ambler-Jones is still grieving the loss of her brother Javier Ambler. In March of 2019, a deputy says he pursued Javier because he failed to dim his head lights for oncoming traffic. A vehicle pursuit followed and was filmed for the TV show Live PD, which is now canceled. Cameras caught Williamson County deputies reportedly holding Javier down and using a taser on him several times.
“When I watch the video of Javier’s murder as he cried out that he could not breathe and cried out please save me, I think he was talking to all of us,” said Rep. James Talarico.
When the cameras stopped rolling, Javier later died. After talking to the Ambler family, Representative James Talarico introduced House Bill 54, which would stop any police agencies from working with reality TV shows.
Rep. Talarico believes reality TV encourages law enforcement officers to use more force than they normally would.
“The number of violent interactions with the Williamson County Sherriff's deputies and citizens nearly doubled in the year following Live PD chasing deputies around town. It’s up to us to honor his [Javier's] legacy and ensure no person, no family has to endure this type of tragedy ever again in our community," he said.
H.B. 54 isn't the only piece of legislature Rep. Talarico has on his plate.
With the state predicting over a billion-dollar deficit, professor of political science at A&M Central Texas Dr. John Koehler thinks it will be a challenge to introduce programs that require a ton of funding. Not to mention, the small timeline everyone has to agree on redistricting plans.
“I think there will be very little appetite for anything that’s going to have any significant appropriations because of the budget shortfalls that the state is experiencing. The redistricting is really going to impact people's ability to choose their representatives at the state level and at the federal level," he said.
Koehler also says the vast majority of bills won’t go to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk, mainly because there’s a lack of resources in Texas, going back to that tight time frame of 140 days.
Rep. Talarico says he believes H.B. 54 will get bipartisan support.