The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety met in a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss S.B. 616, the Department of Public Safety Sunset bill.
BY – Trevor Hand – McWilliams Governmental Affairs Consultants
Committee Chair Chris Paddie (R – Marshall) explained S.B. 616, the companion to H.B. 30, is also the Sunset Bill for the Department of Public Safety. He continued the Sunset Commission’s recommendations for S.B. 616 focus on the Department of Public Safety’s administrative operations and non-law enforcement functions. He explained one of the most visible parts of the review relate to the driver license program as the commission changed the term driver license from six years to eight years. He said this will cut down on the workload in years to come.
Chair Paddie also said the bill mandated a third-party study of moving the program from DPS to DMV to be completed by September 1, 2020. In the absence of the study, the program would move on September 1, 2021 for the next legislature to take action. He explained the Sunset Commission recommended to move the motorcycle and ATV safety training program from DPS to TDLR and requiring DPS track and publicly provide crime statistics as a part of its border security performance reporting.
Chair Paddie said the Sunset Commission also recommended streamlining and simplifying the private security regulations. The private security board will be reconstituted as an advisory committee to DPS and give authority for the program to the Public Safety Commission. He continued that the bill deregulates seven licenses and registrations for individuals that do not directly provide private security services and requires individuals who provide private security obtain a license rather than a registration or endorsement.
Chair Paddie continued it is recommended to discontinue regulation of guard dog companies and trainers, security and alarm systems sales people, private security consultants, and telematics companies like OnStar. It also ended duplicative licensing for peyote distributors and chemical and laboratory apparatus sales and transfers. He concluded with recommending a 12-year continuation was recommended to DPS.
The hearing was then open for public testimony.
Skylor Hearn, Deputy Director of DPS, testified on S.B. 616.
Steve McCraw, Director Texas Public Safety, testified on S.B. 616. Director McCraw explained S.B. 616 uses evidence-based strategies that are important in improving public safety technology, especially because driver license is the second largest department for TPS. He continued additional staffing would improve driver license processes.
Director McCraw reassured that S.B. 616 would not result in a loss of any data and intel.
Steven Mach, Chairman of the Public Safety Commission, testified on S.B. 616. He explained the commission is prepared to support the driver license function in S.B. 616, but cautions the transfer to DMV to prevent inadvertently making matters worse.
Mr. Mach continued he believes a study is necessary for the decision. He recommended allowing an institution of higher education to conduct the study to be competitive solicited. He continued proposed language in the Sunset bill would require the public safety commission to issue final orders and administrative actions.
Mr. Mach explained that if properly resourced, the DMV transfer is likely to live up to expectations of the Department for Public Safety. He continued the study is important to track DPS’s progress.
Kelly Ryan, Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, testified neutrally on the bill. Mr. Ryan said he and the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association expressed support of proper regulation.
Mr. Ryan continued the opinion of the TBFA on S.B. 616 is that there is already a large enough issue with sales people. He continued if the registration for sales people is removed, then those people would not be forced to have a background check that are required now. He continued if registration is taken away from sales people, the rules for sales people concerning soliciting no longer apply. Mr. Ryan said TBFA does not want to see this issue worsen.
Mr. Ryan said taking away a qualified manager means there would be nothing in place to state that anyone at the alarm company knows and follows the rules put out by the Department of Public Safety. He concluded TBFA is not trying to add regulation, but maintain the registration of security sales people and the qualified manager. He added TBFA is also okay with removing the two-year experience requirement for a qualified manager.
Charles Kellis, Associated Security Services and Investigative Services of Texas, testified neutrally on the bill. Mr. Kellis explained ASSIST is also concerned about the sales and security consultants being deregulated as it could result in a breach of information. He continued taking away the qualified manager would take away lawful, quality, and information assurance.
Amy Choate, Sunset Commission, testified as a resource witness. Ms. Choate pointed out primary directive which is to make sure an agency’s regulation is necessary to protect the public, and when looking at the private security industry, Ms. Choate said it was found regulation went beyond public safety and goes into private business matters too much.
Ms. Choate said DPS agreed with their recommendations to deregulate private security sales people and does not see a public safety risk. She said the alarm monitors and the alarm installers would, however, continue to be regulated. She said more functions online for driver license solutions is important. She also said the motorcycle safety program was neglected and small at DPS. She explained transferring to TDLR is because they already regulate private driver training programs.
Julie Davis, Sunset Commission, testified as a resource witness. Davis said in regards to security consultants, there are 418 companies, 489 individuals, 1,800 security sales people, 11,000 alarm sales people. Davis said there was a potential for harm, but it was not real and cognizable based on enforcement data.
Michelle French, Taxes Assessor Collector for Denton County and Taxes Test Assoc. Of Texas, testified on the bill. Ms. French explained she does not want to see moving from one agency to another as it will not remedy long lines. She said people will still wait until the last minute for online services; however, technology should be used.
Ms. French continued if the driver license functions from DPS to DMV without resources, the DMV, in an effort to remedy the issue, there will be a lack of focus on counties, and there will be a reduced level of service. She asked for the funding of the study to be fully vetted and studied so that every opportunity and issue can be talked and worked through.
Alex Smith, Associated Security Services and Investigative Services of Texas, testified on the bill. Smith said security consultants and managers should continue to be regulated. Smith said S.B. 616 will take away safety from businesses.
Rick Briscoe, Open Carry Texas, testified in opposition of S.B. 616. Mr. Briscoe explained Open Carry Texas objects to the continuation of the Department of Public Safety is the agency that administers the review of license carried handguns. He continued agencies exceeded its just and legal authority in the application and goes against their core mission. He added Open Carry Texas wishes for an amendment for to move driver licenses elsewhere.
Chairman Paddie closed, and S.B. 616 was left pending committee action.