“Fentanyl is one of the deadliest drugs on the street,” said Abbott.
The governor explained that fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin and that just two milligrams of the powerful narcotic is a lethal dose.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has already seized more than 320 pounds of fentanyl this year, nearly 1,000 times the amount seized during the same period last year, with much of that coming across the southern border with Mexico.
“The amount of fentanyl that DPS has seized just in the first six months of this year is enough to kill more than 70 million people.”
Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and Deputy Director Nichole Christoph of the non-profit public safety group Crime Stoppers Houston joined Abbott at Crime Stoppers headquarters for the ceremonial signing of Huffman’s Senate Bill (SB) 768.
The legislation will make the manufacture or distribution of fentanyl a third-degree felony and carry a minimum of 10 years in prison for amounts of 4 to 200 grams, minimum of 15 years for amounts of 200 to 400 grams, and minimum of 20 years for amounts of over 400 grams. In each case, the maximum sentence could be life in prison.
The governor said the new law is intended to “crush the spread of fentanyl in Texas.”
Abbott did not limit his remarks to the fentanyl bill, however, and took the opportunity to emphasize what he called an “urgent need” to pass felony bail reform in Texas.
“It is my understanding that since the Democrats broke quorum at the end of May, just a few months ago, seven Texans have been killed by criminals who are out on bail who should not have been out on bail.”
“So, while the Democrats are playing political games, the safety of our communities are at risk. It is time for the Democrats to end their partying in Washington, D.C. and get back to Texas and pass bail reform and other measures that will make our communities safer.”
Huffman explained that the impetus for the new bill came from a constituent family who found their college-age son dead from a fentanyl overdose, and she warned that the drug is often laced into other more commonly used illegal drugs.
Regarding bail reform, Huffman thanked Crime Stoppers for compiling data on the problem in Harris County, and told local media present, “You know what is going on in our city.”
“I’m angry. How can we let this keep happening?”
Noting her current bill addressing bail had passed with the support of four Democrat senators, Huffman said the measure would target violent repeat offenders who were being repeatedly released not just for murder, but other serious crimes such as robbery and rape.
Huffman added that the Senate Joint Resolution that would put the issue before voters in a constitutional amendment election could not be passed since the Democrats had broken quorum.
In response to a media question about working with state Democrats, Huffman explained that there had been negotiations and changes to the bill after working through concerns.
Abbott contended that going to Washington, D.C. to “completely lie about what’s going on and to misrepresent what the bill does” would cause Democrats to lose credibility and make it more difficult to work with Republicans on future legislation.
He added that during the regular session the bail reform legislation had the two-thirds support necessary to make the law effective immediately instead of waiting for September.
“Every day that we don’t have this bail reform passed…there’s going to be more people who not just lose their lives, but as Senator Huffman was talking about, who will be victims of crime. There will be people who will be harmed, there may be people who will lose their lives…because the Democrats are taking time off in a vacation in Washington, D.C.”
Christoph thanked Huffman and Abbott for the fentanyl legislation and highlighted a new resource from Crime Stoppers, “Drugs in a Snap: Our 5 Step Fentanyl Poisoning Prevention Plan,” to provide parents and caregivers additional information on the deadly drug.
She also thanked the governor and other leaders who were standing up for the safety of Texans.
“Public safety should not be a partisan issue. It should not. It affects everyone regardless of race, religion, creed, or party affiliation.”
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.