Friday, July 24, 2020

How the #txlege can pay for needed staff, reforms at Texas' peace-officer licensing agency

Grits mentioned earlier that the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) is up for Sunset review and suggested that many of the needed changes at the agency would require new appropriations. The problem arises: COVID and the oil bust have reduced state revenue and state agencies, including TCOLE, have been asked to reduce budgets accordingly. So is that realistic?

TCOLE's budget is paid mostly from the General Revenue fund and a few disparate grants. But considering they're a licensing agency, there's a big, gaping hole in their revenue sources: Licensing fees!

Neither officers nor agencies pay licensing fees to cover the cost of state regulation. By contrast, a Master Plumber's license costs $175 and $75 to renew every three years.

As of today, TCOLE reports licensing 80,209 officers in Texas statewide. If licensees or their employing agencies paid $50 per year, it would generate $4,010,450, which would essentially double TCOLE's budget. That would be sufficient to finance most recommended reforms.

And yes, this would pass costs down to local agencies, or possibly officers themselves. OTOH, having a regulatory agency that receives no funding from licensing fees is a weird anomaly that only exists that way because police have been given too much deference in the past. Every other regulatory body is paid for by fees from the regulated: Why shouldn't that be true, at least partially, for cops as well?


Gadfly said...

Simple solution would be to assess the fees per agency, prorated based on number of sworm law enforcement employees.

Anonymous said...

Gadfly, I have to disagree, if you assess per agency then the taxpayer ends up paying.

JC said...

Look at the DPS private security model and fee scheme. Probably a good starting point.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of other licensed professionals who earn less than peace officers pay more than $50 a year to keep their credentials. I give this proposal two emphatic hands up (I'd use only thumbs but I need it to be clearer that I'm not a threat!)

Gadfly said...

Anon 1, I disagree with your disagreement. Per Grits, fees are likely going to be passed on to local agencies. A per-officer prorated assessment is the best way to levy them.