State Rep. Chris Paddie's Capitol Update: Taking steps to be better prepared for future disasters

One of the most pressing issues facing the 86th Legislature is dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and working to prepare for future storms.

We took a significant step in the rebuilding efforts in the budget process with the House proposing to spend $2.7 billion to assist with funds needed to not only rebuild but to keep the areas affected by Harvey operating in normal order.

This week, the House took some proactive steps to make sure that Texas is better prepared for the next storm that comes our way. We passed a package of legislation that will work together to improve flood mitigation and disaster response, recover and preparedness.

One of the most urgent needs following a catastrophic storm is debris removal. The longer that debris is left piled up, the more opportunity there is to spread disease. HB 5 will streamline the process of debris removal through the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM) and help communities to have a local plan in advance of the next storm.

The Rebuild Texas report identified recovery as the weakest phase of the emergency management cycle in Texas. To address that concern, HB 6 creates the Disaster Recovery Task Force to provide communities and individuals with specialized assistance including financial issues, federal assistance programs and recovery and resiliency planning to streamline and speed up recovery at the local level.

One of the most visible results of Hurricane Harvey was the historic flooding experienced along the coast. HB 13 creates the Flood Infrastructure Fund to provide regional flood planning, mitigation and infrastructure projects across the state. Some of the money appropriated for this fund will help cities and counties attract federal funds to complete flood mitigation projects, making our dollars go further.

We also approved a host of other storm and disaster related legislation that would improve communications and data sharing, prevent looting, increase coordination, and provide notice of water being released from dams. While we cannot prevent another storm, we can do everything we can to prepare for the inevitable next storm.

While these bills are the highlights of what we accomplished this week, there were numerous other issues that we addressed. If you have questions about any of those issues or issues that will be addressed, please do not hesitate to contact me at district9.paddie@house.texas.gov or 512-463-0556 (Austin office) or 903-935-1141 (Marshall office).