State of Texas Calls on Cities to Strengthen Cybersecurity, Enhance Government Transparency
If there were any doubt that we were firmly entrenched in the information age, consider that just 30 years ago, in 1989, the word cybersecurity did not even exist. This year, the Texas Legislature has passed a law mandating that all city officials and employees take cybersecurity training to be aware and able to identify and defend municipal computer systems against hacking, phishing, and other forms of computer attacks and fraud.
The word website was first used in 1993, and yet today, while Texas does not technically require cities to maintain an online presence, just about every municipality does have an official website, and the Texas statutes are full of information that must be posted online if a city chooses to have its own website. Does your city’s website publish all the information required by Texas law? Based on the author’s very informal survey of municipal websites around Texas, probably not. Here is a summary of some of the new information that must be on your city’s website (if your city has a website).
Also new in 2019 is the requirement that any city that has the authority to impose a tax must post on the city’s website the city’s contact information, each elected officer of the city, the date and location of the next election of city officers, and the requirements and deadline for filing as a candidate for elected office. In addition, any city with a population of 5,000 or more or in a county with a population of 25,000 or more must also post each notice of a city council meeting and the minutes of each meeting.
Another new law passed by the 2019 Texas Legislature requires each city to post a map of the city’s boundaries and extraterritorial jurisdiction on its website, and if the city is a home rule city, the map must be in digital format.
As of January 1, 2020, any city that is a “taxing unit” will be required to either maintain a website or have access to a “generally accessible Internet website” (presumably this means Facebook) to post tax rate and budget information. In addition to the city’s and the city councilmembers’ contact information, the website must include the city’s budget for the previous two years, the proposed or adopted budget for the current year, the change in the city’s budget by dollar amount and percentage, the amount of tax revenue and the tax rate for maintenance and operations for the current year and previous two years, the tax rate for debt service for the same time period, the most recent financial audit of the city, and the current version of its guidelines and criteria for tax abatement agreements.
This is just a small sample of the information required to be posted on your Texas city’s website in 2019. A municipal attorney can be a valuable resource for your city secretary and city council to stay in compliance and keep your citizens informed.
Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our municipal law practice can be found here.
Drew Shirley is a Houston attorney with experience in tort and business litigation and business and real estate transactions. Shirley graduated cum laude from Duke University, then received two advanced degrees – a master’s in journalism and a law degree – from the University of Texas at Austin. He joined the Randle Law Office in 2015.