An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Executive director’s update: Legislative update
by Bryan Collier
The regular session of the 86th Texas Legislature concluded on May 27. During the session, the Legislature enacted more than 1,500 bills addressing a wide range of issues affecting all Texans. Only a small number of those bills directly impacted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and our 36,000 employees, and none more so than House Bill (HB) 1, the General Appropriations Act, which provides the state’s budget for the next two fiscal years, and Senate Bill (SB) 500, which provided supplemental appropriations to certain state agencies for the remainder of the current fiscal year.
I am pleased to say HB 1 and SB 500 increased funding for several critical operational items included in our legislative appropriations request, most notably a pay raise for many TDCJ employees, and that appropriations for other functional areas were maintained at the current FY 2018-19 appropriated levels.
Recognizing staff recruitment and retention is the single most important issue impacting the successful operations of the Department, the Legislature appropriated an additional $84 million for a “targeted” salary increase (Correctional Officer and Parole Officer Career Ladder Restructure/Pay Raise, accessible text) impacting correctional officers, laundry and food service managers, ranking correctional officers and parole officers. We are grateful to the Legislature and the governor for this action.
Additional funding was also allocated for other important operational issues such as comprehensive video surveillance; offender information management systems; treatment and diversion programs, to include academic and vocational training; reentry services; and programs serving pretrial offenders. Please see Recent Actions on HB 1 and SB 500 (accessible text) on the TDCJ website for additional details regarding legislative appropriations to the Department.
Although not included in the TDCJ budget, continued legislative support for employee pensions and the group health insurance program is just as important to our workforce and to the agency’s recruitment and retention efforts. Legislators continued funding the state’s share of health care costs, and also maintained the state’s current contribution rates for employee pensions.
One disappointment in regards to funding relates to those TDCJ staff who, along with most state employees, did not receive a salary increase. Please know the hard work, dedication, commitment and contributions to public safety of all staff are valued and appreciated. This agency will continue to advocate for pay raises for all employees.
While none of the other legislation enacted will have a significant operational impact on the agency, bills providing the Department with additional information on incoming offenders who are mentally ill or intellectually disabled, changing how offenders are assessed a health services fee, ensuring adequate programming and services for female offenders remains a priority, and promoting the successful reentry of offenders back into society, were among the notable statutory changes made by the 86th Legislature.
In conclusion, I want to express my appreciation to our state’s elected officials for their work during the recent legislative session. With their support the Department will continue to fulfill its vital public safety mission.
Of course, I remain most appreciative of and sincerely grateful to our agency’s employees. Thank you for the public service you perform each and every day.