By Laura Nicholes
TAC Legislative Staff
House Corrections Chairman Jerry Madden has filed HB 3617, which seeks to consolidate the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS), Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) and the Texas Commission on Fire Protection into one agency, the Public Safety Licensing Commission.
Governor Rick Perry announced this recommendation in February. As filed, the new Public Safety Licensing Commission would require a new board comprised of nine public appointments made by the governor and restructuring of the three agencies.
County officials will not have representation on the new agency board and will not have a voice concerning regulatory decisions directly impacting counties and related constitutional minimum jail standards.
Additionally, HB 3617 eliminates important services currently provided by the agency; the division overseeing county jails would be enforcement-oriented. Under the bill, counties will no longer have access to valuable services such as construction plan reviews, staffing and facility needs analyses, population projections and trends reports and various other forms of technical assistance serving the best interests of counties.
TCJS Should Remain a Stand-Alone Agency
The Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) helps counties stay in compliance with state and federal jail requirements and standards, limiting county liability and saving taxpayer dollars. Currently, county officials serve as members of the commission, ensuring that the county voice is heard during the regulatory process.
In the past, counties have supported TCJS as a stand-alone agency, fully funded and capable of effectively assisting counties, in the overall best interest of counties, taxpayers, jail employees and jail inmates. Consolidating TCJS into a one-size-fits-all agency with unrelated regulatory purposes will end the county voice in regulating county jails. It will erode the commission’s ability to provide necessary, highly-specialized assistance and customer service to county jail operations.