A bill that currently contains broad language and potentially over-criminalizes activists has been fast tracked to the House floor. HB 3557 looks like it’s aim is to punish people that damage critical infrastructure like oil and gas pipelines, but in reality it would turn someone simply placing a sticker in protest into a second degree felony.
The bill currently combines any action from impeding to vandalizing to destroying property and makes all of them second degree felonies.
This could include peaceful protests with a property owner’s permission to a property owner being charged for refusing to open a gate on which their land had been seized under imminent domain.
The bill also includes a flat one million dollar fine, or as its senate counterpart (SB1993) read 100 times fine. Most fines against groups are maxed out at three times the fine and the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against excessive fines in the civil asset forfeiture case that was just before it.
We believe in protecting these infrastructures. We believe in holding individuals and groups that cause damage or trespass accountable. But it must be done in a proper manner. Vague language, excessive fines, and broad punishment are not how we protect Texas and uphold the law. Each of these crimes is already found in our penal code. If they need to be strengthened then let us start there and not attempt this massive overhaul that can overreach and overlook the people caught up in its wake.