Two bills were filed in the House and one in the Senate on Wednesday that address natural disaster preparation and recovery.
State Rep. Geanie W. Morrison, R-Victoria, filed two bills, House Bills 6 and 7, to improve disaster preparation and recovery, while state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst filed Senate Bill 6 that is a comprehensive/omnibus emergency management bill dealing with the Texas Department of Emergency Management.
The two House bills were drafted from policy recommendations made by the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas. The Commission was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to ensure that Texas would be better prepared to withstand future disasters. The bills were filed as part of a larger package of Harvey-inspired legislation with the goal of reducing red tape for Texans during and after a natural disaster, according to a news release from Morrison’s office.
“A top priority for the House is to help our Gulf Coast fully rebuild and recover from the lasting effects of Hurricane Harvey. We are actively working together because a unique opportunity exists this session to apply lessons learned since Harvey, including more efficient organization and effective coordination between state and local governments, as well as more accessible information to the public and more timely response efforts,” said Morrison, who is chairwoman of the House Local and Consent Calendars Committee.
HB 6 would task the Texas Division of Emergency Management with developing a Disaster Recovery Task Force to assist communities and individuals with specialized assistance, including financial issues, federal assistance programs, and recovery and resiliency planning to streamline and speed recovery at the local level. The Rebuild Texas report identified recovery as the weakest phase of the emergency management cycle in Texas, and the mission of this task force would be to strengthen recovery functions while using resources of the Texas A&M University System, including the AgriLife Extension Service, state agencies and organized volunteer groups.
HB 7 would help state agencies and local jurisdictions eliminate administrative red tape that slows down effective emergency management functions. This includes maintaining a standing list of regulatory waivers needed during a disaster, compiling statutes or rules that must be suspended during an emergency, and working out partnership agreements and contracted services before disaster strikes. This will allow our communities and families to access much timelier assistance.
“Texas suffered one of the largest natural disasters in our nation’s history with Hurricane Harvey. Nearly all of the counties that I represent in the Texas Senate were declared federal disasters areas where homes, businesses, and entire families were devastated,” Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said during a news conference.
Specifically, SB 6 instructs the Texas Department of Emergency Management to use state resources to create guides for local officials on disaster response and recovery that will reduce confusion and delay after an emergency. The bill also contains several provisions related to the disposal and management of debris after a disaster, according to a news release from Kolkhorst’s office.
“The survivors and victims of Harvey will never be forgotten, and the best way to pay tribute to them is to come together as Texans helping Texans, and create an action plan for the future,” said Kolkhorst.