State must also acton Harvey legislation
Having used this space on Monday to urge the federal government to finally release funds for survivors of Hurricane Harvey that were approved long ago, we’d like to repeat that message — with a twist. This time, it’s the state of Texas that must act on this same need, and the timeline is even tighter.
The state Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on Monday, yet it has not yet completed action on at least six major bills related to Harvey response or rebuilding. It’s hard to imagine state lawmakers dropping the ball on something so important, and most of these bills probably will be rushed through at the last moment, an unfortunately typical development in Austin.
But that’s not the ideal way to handle any legislation, especially something this important. And it’s still possible that one or two of these bills could get lost in the shuffle in the frantic closing days of this session. Members of the House and Senate cannot let that happen, especially lawmakers from Southeast Texas whose constituents lived through this nightmare — in 2017, it must be noted, nearly two years ago.
The bills in question would cover:
Flood pool warnings
Better government coordination
Federal matching funds
Statewide flood plans
Oversight of dam releases
Each of these represents issues that affect not just Harvey victims — which is justification enough — but future hurricanes or floods too. As we have said many times, the smartest way to respond to these disasters is to learn their lessons to minimize future damage. If we improve our drainage systems, avoid building in low-lying areas and boost our storm preparation, our people and businesses will fare better the next time the winds and waters rage.
The frustration with the federal delays that we cited on Monday was bad enough. Frankly, this is worse. The federal funds covered disasters in several states and involved the federal bureaucracy, which obviously has many responsibilities. Harvey hit our own state, and the Legislature meets only every two years. If the Texas House and Senate can’t complete these bills by Monday, the next regular session isn’t scheduled until 2021.
The work on this legislation should have started in late 2017 and been fine-tuned throughout 2018. By the time this session began in January, lawmakers should have had a pretty good idea of what they needed to do — and the urgency to get it done. In these final days, they must finally step up and act.