Editorial

16 March 2020

Capitol Update: Homeland Security & Public Safety Interim Charges

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) around the world, and a growing number of cases right here in Texas, I want to encourage everyone to heed the advice of our health care professionals. It’s important to remember that—like any other illness—there are simple, common sense measures you and your family can follow to help prevent the contraction or spread of the virus: practicing personal hygiene habits like thorough hand washing; staying at home when sick; cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects; and heeding the advice of local health authorities. Your state government is involved in around-the-clock communications with our federal counterparts, leading researchers, and private partners to both monitor and mitigate the spread of the outbreak. As one of our leading state health officials stated this week, “Be prepared but not panicked.” For more information, please visit the Department of State Health Services website: https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus/

With that, we’ll dive back into our examination of the interim charges. . .

House Interim Charge: Homeland Security & Public Safety

The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety has jurisdiction over a wide array of policy areas ranging from law enforcement to disaster response and recovery. This committee also has purview over a number of state agencies, including the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Division of Emergency Management.  As you might imagine, this committee will spend a great deal of time this interim overseeing the implementation of legislation that was passed in response to Hurricane Harvey. For example, the committee will monitor the implementation of House Bill 6, which creates the Disaster Recovery Task Force to help facilitate specialized assistance throughout the long-term recovery period. Other examples include House Bill 2305, which enhances emergency training for personnel at the state and local levels, and House Bill 2320, which improves public infrastructure by hardening utilities and facilities.

While Hurricane Harvey will certainly be one area of focus, the Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety will also work to ensure the efficient implementation of measures we passed this session to address sexual assault in Texas. House Bill 8, which we designated as a priority by Governor Abbott, mandates the testing of rape kits and refines the statute of limitations on those offenses until the rape kit is tested. Another bill, House Bill 1590, enhances the policies and practices, personnel training, evidence collection, and data analysis relating to the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of sexual assault offenses. The committee will coordinate with the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force to make legislative recommendations to better prevent, investigate, and prosecute incidents of sexual assault.

Reminders

The mobile office is back on the road in the month of March and looks forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: March 18 at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett, or 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton. 9-11 a.m. March 25 at the San Augustine County Courthouse in San Augustine.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if we can help you in any way. Our District office may be reached at (936) 634-2762, or you can call my Capitol office at (512) 463-0508.

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