According to published news reports, State Sens. Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Kevin Eltife of Tyler are the lone members of the GOP caucus opposing reforms of the so-called Public Integrity Unity. Seliger and Eltife are siding with Democrats in keeping reform legislation from advancing.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Seliger confirmed his role in siding with the Democrats, while Eltife has refused to answer questions.
Last week, Eltife was the only Republican senator to help a small number of Democrats in opposing property tax relief legislation. Seliger and Eltife were also the only Republicans not signed on as original authors to a package of significant tax relief measures that sailed through the Senate. (Seliger ended up voting for the measures under pressure from constituents.)
For many years, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office has received state funding for its “public integrity unit.” This has put far-left Travis County voters in charge of selecting the de facto prosecutor of state corruption cases. As a result, the PIU prosecutions — like that of former Gov. Rick Perry for vetoing funds to the unit — are widely recognized as partisan witch hunts conducted by the most extreme edge of the Democratic Party. Even when the Travis County unit has prosecuted Democrats, it has often been reform-minded and even conservative Democrats who were under fire.
As an aside, this arrangement has given outsized political power to the residents of one county (Travis) over the residents of Texas’ 253 other counties.
State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) put forward legislation — Senate Bill 10 — that would move the investigatory functions to the Office of the Attorney General and the independent Texas Rangers. Prosecution would be handled not by Travis County, but by the prosecutor in the defendent’s home county.
The Travis County Public Integrity Unit is currently headed by District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who was arrested for drunk driving two years ago. Her violent resistance of arrest was captured on video. She refused to resign her office, despite a jail sentence. The Democratic Party has supported Lehmberg remaining in office.