Updated: Apr 10, 2019
A Legislative Update
Like Hurricane Harvey, something unprecedented has occurred in this 86th Texas legislative session, and yet seems to be going completely unnoticed. Two months ago, I wrote about the efforts of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce and its involvement with the Harris Plus Flood Solutions to move bills through the legislature to fund ongoing Hurricane Harvey recovery and future flood mitigation projects. Well, much has happened since February, and it is all good news.
On March 11, Al Haines, Chair of the Flood Mitigation Task Force and I, along with a delegation of other members of Harris Plus Flood Solutions, traveled to Austin to testify in front of the Senate Committee on Water & Rural Affairs. Senators Kolkhorst, Creighton and Perry, all members of the committee were reading three separate bills they introduced which address the issue of flooding in the State of Texas. Kolkhorst’s bill (SB6) addresses emergency response and debris removal. Senator Creighton’s bill (SB7) sets up a series of funds known as the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund to finance matching dollars for federal grants, infrastructure projects and Hurricane Harvey recovery. Senator Perry’s Bill (SB8) addresses floodplain planning and management. All three bills passed unanimously out of committee and sent to the Senate floor. On March 20, Senate bills 6, 7 and 8, once again, all passed unanimously before the full senate and sent over to the house.
Passing bills is all well and good but does not meaning anything if they do not have the money to back them up. Well, in the same week the Senate passed the supplemental budget bill (SB500), appropriating $1.65 billion in flood related funding, in addition to other important state funding needs, unanimously. On the House side of the legislature, the Appropriations Committee passed the complete budget bill (HB1) with only one “nay,” and the Finance Committee passed it unanimously.
In addition to flood mitigation, the legislature has been tackling other weighty issues like property reform and school finance reform, and it is doing so with incredible diligence, seriousness and very little political noise. In today’s divisive partisan climate, to see this level of focus and cooperation around statewide matters on issues of matter and substance, is truly remarkable. On the national stage, the State of Texas receives its overly fair share of attention and mocking for many of its policy decisions, but during this legislative session, when they are working issues that really are in the best interests of the State’s health and welfare, no one seems to be paying any attention. Perhaps it is about time they should. Because, when there is real work to be done, the State of Texas doesn’t just rally with a vote of the majority, it does so unanimously.
April 10, 2019
UPDATE: Since posting this article, today the House passed HB 13, bringing $3.26 billion in flood recovery and resiliency funding, subject to voter approval, UNANIMOUSLY!