AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Aug. 22 hosted the first meeting of the Texas Safety Commission, pulling together a group of lawmakers, educators, advocates, community leaders and public safety experts.

Created Aug. 19 by the governor, the commission is tasked with developing “an immediate action plan to provide community healing, combat the rise of extremist groups and hateful ideologies, keep guns out of the hands of deranged individuals, and combat domestic terrorism in Texas.” 

"It is imperative that Texas develop solutions that not only make our state a better place, but most importantly a safer place. Our starting point began today, with the process of exploring all avenues and reviewing all facts to determine how we can prevent another tragedy like the shooting in El Paso from occurring again," Abbott said.

"I am grateful for the insight and expertise of those who participated in the Texas Safety Commission meeting today, and I look forward to our continued work as we pursue ideas that will keep Texas safe," he added.

Present for the first meeting were: Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen; El Paso-area lawmakers Sen. Jose Rodriguez and Reps. Mary Gonzales, Cesar Blanco, Joe Moody and Art Fierro. Also, Senate State Affairs Committee Chair and Senate President Pro Tem Joan Huffman of Houston; Rep. Phil King of Weatherford; Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, and many other key state employees and private citizens.


Cyber attack hits cities


The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) on Aug. 20 announced that 22 local governmental entities across Texas were victims of an Aug. 16 "ransomware attack.” The department said evidence points to a "single threat actor."

A host of state and federal agencies are investigating the attack. State of Texas systems and networks were not impacted, according to the DIR.

To enhance cybersecurity, the DIR is recommending that public and private organizations:

• Keep software patches and antivirus tools up to date;

• Create strong unique passwords that are changed regularly;

• Enable multi-factor authentication, especially for remote logins;

• Modernize legacy systems and ensure software is as current as possible;

• Limit the granting of administrative access; and

• Perform regular, automated backups and keep the backups segregated.


Hughs is secretary of state


Ruth Ruggero Hughs, chair of the Texas Workforce Commission for the past year, is Texas's new secretary of state, Gov. Abbott announced Aug. 19. 

The appointment took effect immediately. The office became vacant when the Texas Senate did not confirm the appointment of David Whitley, who served as secretary of state from Dec. 17, 2018, to May 27, 2019. 

In her new post, Hughs serves as chief election officer for Texas, assisting county election officials and ensuring the uniform application and interpretation of election laws throughout Texas. The secretary of state’s office is the repository for certain business and commercial records and publishes government rules and regulations and commissions notaries public. The secretary also serves as keeper of the state seal and attestor to the governor's signature on official documents.

In her new role, Hughs also will serve as senior advisor and liaison to the Governor for Texas Border and Mexican Affairs and as chief international protocol officer for Texas.

Texas notes sold quickly

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 21 announced that the sale of $8 billion in Texas Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes received a net interest rate of 1.34 percent.

The Comptroller's office received 67 bids worth $22.77 billion, 2.85 times the amount offered for sale. Notes sold on Aug. 21 will be repaid on Aug. 27, 2020, Hegar said.

Money from the sale of the notes is used to help fund expenditures such as public-school payments made early in the fiscal year, before the arrival of tax revenues later in the year.


Anti-litter effort begins


The Texas Department of Transportation on Aug. 20 announced that its “Don’t mess with Texas®” campaign and Buc-ee’s, a convenience store chain, are teaming up to fight litter in the Lone Star State. 

Billboards along major travel routes are already reminding drivers to keep trash inside their cars until it can be properly disposed of at Buc-ee’s stores across Texas. 

Those who litter can face a fine starting at $500 and up to $2,000, TxDOT said.