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Governor signs disaster-related legislation

by | Jun 19, 2019 | Opinion

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, and 23 House and Senate members joined Gov. Greg Abbott in Houston on June 13 as he signed four disaster preparedness and relief bills into law.

The group met at Gallery Furniture, owned by Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, to look on as Abbott put his signature on the bills. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017, McIngvale opened two of his stores to shelter storm-displaced Houstonians and his company deployed its largest moving truck to rescue people in flooded neighborhoods.

“Thanks to the work of the Legislature, we are rebuilding Texas stronger and more resilient than ever,” said Abbott. “In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we saw the unshakable spirit of the Lone Star State through the generosity of Texans helping their neighbors. These important pieces of legislation are a symbol of that spirit, as well as a sign of Texas’ commitment to improving the way we respond to natural disasters.”

The bills Abbott signed at the gathering include:

— HB 5 by Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, and Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, requiring the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to develop a catastrophic debris management plan and training and establish a work group to make recommendations on how local governments and property owners’ associations can assist with recovery efforts. HB 5 also requires the TDEM to develop a model contract for debris removal.

— HB 7 by Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, and Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, requiring the governor’s office to develop a list of waivers that could be implemented following a disaster and requiring the TDEM to develop a plan to assist local communities with disaster preparation contracts for services.

— SB 6 by Kolkhorst and Morrison, requiring the TDEM to develop a disaster response model guide and a wet-debris study group for local communities and creating a disaster recovery loan program within the TDEM for communities that suffered significant infrastructure damage.

— SB 7 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and Rep. Phelan, establishing the framework for providing a total of $1.6 billion through the Texas Infrastructure Resilience Fund as matching funds available to communities hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey, and through the Flood Infrastructure Fund for statewide infrastructure projects to mitigate future flooding events.

Senate members present as Abbott signed the bills included: Kolkhorst, Creighton, Huffman, Carol Alvarado, D-Houston; Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston; and Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels. House members present included: Phelan, Alma Allen, D-Houston; Gina Calanni, D-Katy; Garnet Coleman, D-Houston; Sarah Davis, R-West University Place; Harold Dutton, D-Houston; Sam Harless, R-Spring; Dan Huberty, R-Houston; Will Metcalf, R-Conroe; Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land; Mayes Middleton, R-Wallisville; Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City; Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston; Valoree Swanson, R-Spring; Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands; and Armando Walle, D-Houston.

June 16 was the final day for Gov. Abbott to approve, veto or allow to become law without his signature legislation passed in the 140-day 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature that ended May 27.

Revenue is distributed

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on June 12 announced he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $782.1 million in local sales tax allocations for the month of June.

The amount is 10.1 percent more than the comptroller’s office distributed in June 2018.

Local sales tax allocations are based on sales made in April by businesses that report tax monthly.

Board of plumbing lives on

Gov. Abbott on June 13 signed an executive order for the State Board of Plumbing Examiners to continue its functions until May 31, 2021.

Without Abbott’s action, the board would have been abolished on Sept. 1, 2019, because the Legislature did not act to renew its functions under the Texas Sunset Act, a law that requires periodic review of state boards and commissions for continuation or abolishment.

Abbott said it is necessary to continue the board “to perform its indispensable role in protecting Texans” in fulfilling the demands for rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey and for “keeping Texas prepared and able to recover from future disasters.”

Lawmaker is elected mayor

State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, emerged the winner of a June 8 runoff election with challenger Scott Griggs and was elected mayor of Dallas. The oath of office is to be administered on June 17.

Johnson, who succeeds Mike Rawlings as mayor of Dallas, joined the Legislature in April 2010 after winning a special election to succeed state Rep. Terri Hodge.

Johnson will be succeeded as state representative for House District 100 by the winner of a special election.

For more stories like this, see the June 19 issue or subscribe online.

By Ed Sterling • Member Services Director, Texas Press Association

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