Lawmakers Create Port Security District

Governor Rick Perry ceremonially signed a piece of legislation that creates a framework for security at the Port of Houston. The bill allows the local government and industry to set up a security district along the Houston Ship Channel. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

The bill creates a security framework, called the Houston Ship Channel Security District. It's a public-private partnership to coordinate security functions between all the different stakeholders. Governor Rick Perry says the state has no other option than to protect the Port of Houston because it serves as a gateway into Texas.

"I try to remind people often that we cannot forget the very real and lingering possibility of terrorism. Our prosperous nation remains the focus of hatred for groups that would come and do great damage to America if we give them the opportunities."

The Ship Channel Security District will oversee and administer grant money and homeland security funds. Most of the representatives on the Board for the district will come from the private industry. The Port Authority and Harris County will also be represented, but Gov. Perry says it was actually the industry that initiated the idea.

"What they've had to deal with over the past decade, the past six years in particular, was this mounting federal regulation, substantial pressure from environmental groups. And the fact is they could have said you know what, we're tired of messing with this and they could have taken their ball and gone home. But instead, they shouldered their part of the responsibility in making this port safe."

State Representative Wayne Smith authored House Bill 3011 and says the idea came from looking at other areas of Houston where stakeholders in Uptown Park or Downtown all came together to create a business district. That model is carried over here to the security sector.

"It is the first of its kind in the country. So we need to do it right so that others in the country are watching us and can develop their own process. But we will probably be the model for the rest of the country to look at and the other ports to develop a security district."

The district does not have the power to assess taxes of any kind, although it can fund its operations through grants, loans, sale of property and by assessing certain fees within the membership of the district. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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