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Message from Carlos - October 2017

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October 1, 2017

As Southeast Texas begins to recover from Hurricane Harvey, the Texas Senate is evaluating the local and state responses to the Hurricane, and the best ways to move forward. Each Committee is tasked with evaluating and laying out solutions to specific issues, which will be used to shape policies in the 2019 Legislative Session.

As a member of the Health and Human Services, Finance, and Education Committees, I am prepared to address the spectrum of issues that Houston faces as it rebuilds into the family-friendly, business hub we know it to be.

Following Harvey, some Houston schools did not re-open their doors for days or even weeks. Students returned to school having witnessed flood waters drown their neighborhoods, destroying parts of their homes, valued items and cars. Many families were rescued from their homes by boat, slept in crowded shelters, and are now trying to find the finances to rebuild their lives. This trauma on kids, coupled with the late school starts, can make their transitions back to school very difficult.

To address these challenges with the needs of affected students in mind, the Education Committee will evaluate school hurricane recovery efforts, including the Texas Education Agency crisis management response, and ways to expedite school district responses to future disasters.  The Committee will also determine how changes in student enrollments or property valuations will affect school funding in affected areas.

Continuing our endeavors to assist affected Texans, the Health and Human Services Committee will focus on the state's post-Harvey public health efforts, such as immunization needs, utilization of health volunteers, and the adequacy of the emergency medical network. Second, we will evaluate the impact on out-of-home placements for youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Finally, we will examine the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Disaster-SNAP program efficiency following the Hurricane. These studies will improve our public health strategies for future disasters.

The Finance Committee will monitor the funds being used to address recovery, seeking ways to maximize the use of federal and state funds. We will also study the Hurricane's long-term impact on the Texas economy. 

The remaining committees will also be hard at work: recommending how to best rebuild our transportation infrastructure, reviewing the interaction between federal, state, and local agencies in response to Harvey, and so on.

I am heartened that Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery has dominated our agenda before the next Session, but I believe there is more to be done for Texans in need, and sooner. Thousands of people are still displaced in Houston, businesses have not reopened, and physical damage abounds. If there is ever a time to dip into the state's $10 billion Rainy Day Fund, that time is now.

I hope you will engage with my office as we dive further into these important charges. Visit www.capitol.texas.gov to sign up for committee alerts so you are notified when committees will meet on these important charges.

Semper Fi!