Texas Border Business

WASHINGTON – On the floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the recent changes made to the First Step Act and the resulting endorsements from key law enforcement groups. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s floor remarks are below, and video can be found here.

“This legislation is based on prison reform but has taken on some additional attributes relative to how we sentence and how judges sentence people convicted of various crimes.”

“In Texas, in 2007 or thereabouts, we had some far-sighted, visionary leaders actually who decided instead of just being tough on crime, which Texas has always had a reputation for, we needed to be smart on crime, too.”

“When I say we saw both a reduction in the incarceration and crime rates, let me give you a couple of numbers. From 2005 to 2016, the Texas FBI index crime plummeted by more than 34 percent. In the same period, the incarceration rate dropped 23 percent. That’s pretty shocking and surprising numbers. The crime rate went down 34 percent. The incarceration rate dropped 23 percent. You would think the opposite would be true, that with incarceration rates going down, the crime rate would go up, but because of these visionary programs and these reforms, they simply worked in tandem to reduce the incarceration rate and improve public safety at the same time.”

“These reforms and these outcomes are real, and I’ve been working with my colleagues in the Senate Judiciary Committee since 2013 to try to bring these reforms now to the national level. And the First Step Act is our opportunity to do just that this week in the Senate.”

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“The current bill has undergone some major improvements over the last few weeks which I’m very proud of. The previous version of the legislation had a number of very positive attributes.”

“In fact, more than three-quarters of the bill was based on the CORRECTIONS Act that Senator Whitehouse and I introduced in 2014, which is the prison reform component of the legislation. But the remainder of the sentencing elements in the bill were more controversial, and many of my concerns were shared by members of the law enforcement community. As I was gauging where members stood on the bill, it was clear that many could not support the old version of the bill and needed the primary sponsors of the bill, who I mentioned a moment ago, to work with them to try to make it more acceptable to law enforcement.”

“We’ve all learned how to get things done here in the Senate… to listen and to work together to find solutions, and that’s exactly what we did. We spent a lot of time talking to, as I said, national law enforcement organizations, and those in Texas. I know we all value the input of our sheriffs and our police chief and our other law enforcement professionals, and we tried to work with them to try to figure out how can we make this bill stronger. I listened to feedback from our nation’s police officers and sheriffs, and we all got to work. We had meetings, we negotiated, we compromised with colleagues on both sides of the aisle as well as friends across the Capitol in the House.”

“We also worked with the White House, who we’ve all stayed in constant contact with on this issue since the Trump Administration took office nearly two years ago.”

“So this bill is the product of those negotiations and those changes, and I’m not the only one that’s happy with the result. Since the improvements have been made, the bill has been endorsed by a number of important groups, including the National Association of Counties, the Texas Municipal Police Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Council of State Governments. So I appreciate the dedication and hard work of our colleagues who have worked on this to get the bill where it is today.”

“I’m confident that the Senate will pass this bill, and we can soon send it to the president’s desk for his signature.”

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.