Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, asked lawmakers Thursday to study ahead of the 2019 legislative session ways the state can respond to Hurricane Harvey-related issues and prepare for future disasters.
Straus’ interim charges are:
• House Appropriations Committee: Review how state agencies use federal dollars to respond to Harvey, find ways to make the most of those dollars to “reduce the impact” of future natural disasters, identify the resources Texas needs to respond to Harvey and future disasters, and identify ways to invest in infrastructure ahead of future disasters.
• House Public Education Committee: Determine financial losses and deaths related to Harvey; recommend ways the state can respond, “such as changes to student counts or property valuation, to mitigate any negative impact on districts and ensure governance structures and parameters allow for effective responses.”
• House Public Education Committee: Recommend ways to “prevent unintended punitive consequences to both students and districts in the state accountability system” because of Harvey.
• House Public Education Committee: Review educational opportunities for displaced students, and recommend any changes to the process of enrolling them or ways to help districts “serving a disproportionate number of displaced students.”
• House Natural Resources Committee: Study “the role of regional entities in developing projects to control flooding;” review ways entities are trying to reduce the effects of future floods; examine how “public entities” that own or manage dams react to “large-scale rain events.”
“While the state is taking a number of immediate actions to help Texans begin to recover, and will continue to do so, the Legislature will have a substantial role to play in both the recovery process and in preparation for future storms,” Straus said in a letter to House members. “The importance of getting these issues right when we meet again demands that we start working on them now.”
Harvey struck the Texas coast near Port Aransas as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, with sustained winds of 132 mph. The storm devastated numerous coastal and rural communities, and left large portions of Houston and Beaumont under several feet of water.
Gov. Greg Abbott has said recovery would cost between $150 billion and $180 billion.