The Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) held its organizational meeting Monday, Feb. 25 to hear invited testimony from housing and special district representatives and an update on Hurricane Harvey.
Of importance to counties, Texas Land Commissioner George Bush presented an update to the committee on Hurricane Harvey recovery and the role of the Texas General Land Office (GLO). He gave an overview of the GLO’s Community Development Revitalization Program and the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery monies spent for disaster recovery on housing infrastructure, mitigation planning, and economic development.
Conversations with more than 180 community leaders during 350 visits from hurricane-affected areas led the GLO to capture lessons learned in the report - Hurricane Harvey: Texas At Risk. The report makes 18 policy recommendations in order to better protect Texans when the next disaster strikes and to improve subsequent recovery efforts. A few of those include that the State should establish a permanent disaster recovery training center for local government officials focused on recovery, disaster fortification and resilience; it also endorses the efforts of city and regional planning groups in Texas buying land at market prices without the use of eminent domain to reduce the risk of flooding and preserve reservoir water recharge. The GLO should bid out indefinite quantity contracts (IQCs) for information management, construction, and other engineering construction services under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) procedures before the annual hurricane season each year so that contracts are in place to be used within a week of a major disaster.
Commissioner Bush also called for counties to have predetermined zones for RVs and mobile homes in times of natural disasters. Local government officials have relayed that they need a database of applicants qualifying for federal assistance. This database would allow people to volunteer their information and keep track of the applications. The GLO legislative appropriations request of $4.2 million would utilize training and establish disaster response strategies state-wide, putting resources where needed most.
IGR will now begin hearing bills referred to the committee. TAC staff will continue to monitor this and all legislative hearings.