Legislative Line – September 2017
Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Texas has generated activity at the Texas Legislature in the past weeks. Hurricane response dominated the roundup of news in September, below, from the Texas Capitol.
Hurricane Harvey Update
On Sept. 14, House Speaker Joe Straus asked three House committees to begin studying issues related to Hurricane Harvey and state preparations for future natural disasters. A charge worth noting is:
- Committee on Appropriations: Examine the use of federal funds by state agencies responding to the effects of Harvey and identify opportunities to maximize the use of federal funds to reduce the impact of future natural disasters. Also identify the need for state resources to respond to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts, as well as opportunities for state investment in infrastructure projects that will reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
On Sept. 28, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released a set of interim charges directly related to issues resulting from Hurricane Harvey and the flooding aftermath. Important charges included in the list are:
- State Affairs Committee: Review the interaction between federal, state, and local agencies in charge of responding to natural disasters. Examine emergency situation operations, including evacuation routes and procedures, and the efficient use of Disaster Recovery Centers. Make recommendations to ensure emergency management officials have the tools and authority necessary to promptly and appropriately respond to disaster areas and alert citizens to potential threats.
- Business and Commerce Committee: Study infrastructure security and energy restoration post weather events. Identify ways state government entities can help utilities more effectively stage pre- hurricane mobilization crews for managing resources before an event.
- Transportation Committee: Study the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the state’s transportation infrastructure and make recommendations on how best to rebuild assets efficiently and effectively.
On Sept. 29, Gov. Greg Abbott presented Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner a $50 million check for Hurricane Harvey relief. Turner then decided against a proposed property tax hike for the city. The money comes from the $100 million disaster relief fund appropriated to Abbott’s office during the last legislative session. It will go toward immediate relief needs such as reconstruction. Long-term recovery and preventive measures will likely be funded by the federal government and, potentially, the state’s $10 billion Rainy Day Fund. Abbott mentioned the possibility for a special session to allocate funds for recovery and prevention but not until exact costs for recovery are known.
House and Senate News
Senate interim charge requests were due to Lt. Gov. Patrick on Sept. 22. While Harvey-related charges have already been released, you can expect the rest of the interim charges to be announced later this year.
On Sept. 22, Rep. Phil King officially declared his candidacy for Speaker of the Texas House. King’s announcement came at the end of the two-day House Republican Caucus retreat. One topic that was set to come up at the meeting was the caucus’s procedures for picking a speaker. Asked why he’s running, King said the special session was the “final straw” for him. He cited a number of proposals that he believes Straus blocked and pointed to the speaker’s decision to end the special session a day early, over the objections of some members. Speaker Joe Straus has said he plans to seek a record-breaking sixth term behind the dais in 2019.