April Fools' day is usually a time for practical jokes and kidding around, but there were very few laughs at the Capitol this week as the House considered the serious subject of the state budget. However, it is not the only story going on.
Five important things that happened this week at your Texas Capitol are:
On Thursday, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) held a special meeting in which they addressed the impending closure of 14 Texas air traffic control towers due to federal sequestration. As you may be aware, the federal government has been unable to agree on a budget, and there have been widespread spending cuts, referred to as sequestration, as a result. If nothing is done, 149 airport towers across the nation, including 14 in Texas, will close on April 7 and thus create a public safety emergency for fliers.
Fortunately, TxDOT voted to step in and pay for the cost of operating Texas' towers for 90 days at which point they will reevaluate the situation. I am thankful the state has stepped up to protect our citizens when the federal government will not.
Cell phone tracking/ Drone surveillance
Several legislators have filed bills this session regarding Texans' technology privacy rights. State Representative Brian Hughes' much-talked-about HB 1608 would require law enforcement officers to obtain search warrants in order to access cell phone records. There would be exceptions when a phone is reported stolen or in the case of life threatening situations.
Another technology privacy bill deals with drones. Representative Lance Gooden's HB 912 would ban the possession and use of any photos obtained by drones or any unmanned vehicles. Both civil and criminal penalties would apply for violators.
We now live in an age when technology is evolving at a faster rate than the laws regarding it. I applaud these members' efforts to strengthen privacy rights.