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House bill aims at Public Integrity Unit

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 by Mark Richardson

On Monday the Texas House approved on first reading a bill designed to take a number of public corruption cases away from Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit. Final approval is expected today. The bill, House Bill 1690, applies only to corruption allegations against elected or appointed state officials, who would be prosecuted in the official’s home county. Cases against state employees would still be prosecuted in Travis County. Republicans want to take prosecution of elected or appointed officials away from the Travis County district attorney, claiming they can’t get a fair hearing in a Democratic-controlled county. The Public Integrity Unit has been under fire for several years, but came under intense scrutiny after then-Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the unit’s funding in 2013 after Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg would not resign following a drunken driving conviction. Travis County Commissioners later stepped in to fund the office. The veto led to charges against Perry for misuse of power. A trial in that case is pending. The Texas Senate has already passed a similar bill.

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