Cyber Security And Urban Affairs Interim Charges
The 84th Texas Legislative Session came to an end last year. However, the interim period remains busy as Texas House members carry out their duties in their respective committees. The Speaker of the House assigns each committee interim charges which outline the policy objectives for each committee and allows a closer look at issues affecting our state. As the Vice-Chair of the Texas House Urban Affairs committee, myself and the other members were tasked to look at the following issues/interim charges. A looming issue is cybersecurity. The House Committee on Urban Affairs will review the following:
1. Study the effectiveness and efficiency of current programs in Texas as well as best practices to determine how to decrease the risk and mitigate the impact of wildfires, floods, and other natural hazards in the wildland-urban interface. Examine the duties, performance, and jurisdictions of water districts, municipalities, Emergency Services Districts, other similar districts, and state offices like the Fire Marshal and Extension Services. Evaluate current regulations and identify best practices. Recommend approaches for hazard mitigation and response to natural disasters. (Joint charge with the House Committee on County Affairs)
2. Identify and address potential gaps in cities’ cybersecurity policy and ensure that personal information held by cities and other municipal entities is secure.
3. Examine whether changes are needed to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’s (TDHCA) low-income tax credit program to ensure compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs et al. v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., et al. on fair housing in Texas.
4. Review existing housing programs and policies in Texas to determine how to best comply with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rules.
5. Monitor and evaluate the availability of low-income housing in the State of Texas. Identify best practices to ensure that the agencies and local providers receiving state or federal funds for low-income housing are maximizing the number of units of housing available to Texans who need this program.
6. Investigate the operation and regulation, including a review of standards, monitoring, and enforcement, of boarding homes in municipalities and unincorporated areas of counties. Identify communities that have adopted local standards, and review procedures for investigating and closing unlicensed facilities that are providing services which require state licensure. (Joint charge with the House Committee on Human Services)
7. Conduct legislative oversight and monitoring of the agencies, including the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and programs under the committee’s jurisdiction and the implementing of relevant legislation passed by the 84th Legislature. In conducting this oversight, the committee should:
a. consider any reforms to state agencies to make them more responsive to Texas taxpayers and citizens;
b. identify issues regarding the agency or its governance that may be appropriate to investigate, improve, remedy, or eliminate;
c. determine whether an agency is operating in a transparent and efficient manner; and d. identify opportunities to streamline programs and services while maintaining the mission of the agency and its programs.
Last week, a hearing was held on Interim Charge #2 – examining the issue of cybersecurity in cities. Cybersecurity experts from a variety of public and private sectors testified. The field of cybersecurity acknowledges the importance of protecting sensitive data and infrastructure, particularly on the state and local levels. Dr. Gregory White, one of the panel witnesses and the director of the University of Texas at San Antonio Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CAIS), emphasized that communities can be impacted by cyber events in two ways: first, the computer hardware or software can malfunction; second, the hardware or software can be compromised by outside cyber-attacks. There have been several cyber-attacks on major U.S. organizations within the last few years. These cyber-attacks are important to be aware of because they have the potential to directly impact infrastructure and services that our district relies upon. Additionally, there is a growing need for the workforce in the cybersecurity field in Texas. By being aware of these cyber threats, staying informed and working together, we can address these concerns as more and more of our city infrastructure and services relies upon computer systems, such as traffic control systems, street lighting, public transportation, and other similar systems.
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If you have questions regarding any of the information mentioned in this week’s article, please do not hesitate to call my Capitol or District Office. Please always feel free to contact my office if you have any questions or issues regarding a Texas state agency, or if you would like to contact my office regarding constituent services. As always, my offices are available at any time to assist with questions, concerns or comments (Capitol Office, 512-463-0672; District Office, 361-949-4603).
– State Representative Todd Hunter, District 32
Rep. Hunter represents Nueces (Part) County. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 512-463-0672.