While it’s been a few months since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the recovery continues, and the Texas Legislature remains fully engaged. In fact, many evacuees found refuge in communities across Senate District 19 following the storm, and some are not yet able to return to their homes.
Given the massive impact of Harvey, Lt. Governor Patrick and House Speaker Straus each released interim charges, or topics for legislative committees to study, that focus on rebuilding, recovery, and lessons we can learn from the process. In the Senate, nearly every committee now has Harvey-related interim charges to ensure that the state considers all aspects of the disaster. Senator Uresti serves on the Finance, Health and Human Services, Education, and the Select Senate Committee on Government Reform, which will consider a wide range of disaster related topics.
On October 24th the Senate Finance Committee assessed the current status of recovery and relief as well as efforts that have been made up to now and how they will impact our state budget. This committee will monitor recovery funds to ensure they are used efficiently and effectively, and evaluate the long-term impact of Harvey to the state budget.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will review the state and local public health response to Harvey, ranging from mosquito control to the evacuation of vulnerable individuals. Moreover, the committee will evaluate the impact of Harvey on the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, with a focus on the state's role in ensuring that appropriate placements for foster children are available as close to their home as possible. Finally, the Health and Human Services Committee will study the efficiency of SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Disaster SNAP which is extended to those persons under a disaster declaration.
The Education Committee will consider overall hurricane recovery efforts in our public education system. Also, the committee will review the impact of Harvey on school finance, especially as it relates to changes in student enrollment and property values. From these reviews, the Education Committee will identify changes in law that could improve the state's response to public schools after disasters.
The Senate Select Committee on Government Reform will continue to focus on property taxes and efficient spending in the wake of Harvey and make recommendations on statutory changes to allow cities to use Tax Investment Reinvestment Zones to help pay for recovery and rebuilding after a disaster.
Overall, legislators have their hands full ensuring that the state makes the best use of resources for relief, and rebuilding in the wake of Harvey. Legislators are dedicated to ensuring that lessons learned from Harvey will benefit Texas as a whole when we are is called upon to respond to future disasters.