Texas Senate to study disaster rebuilding – trying to get it right next time around

Unfortunately, Texas has a lot of experience administering governmental programs to help Texans rebuild their homes in the wake of natural disasters. Having been in  meetings between FEMA and State of Texas officials in the immediate aftermath of both Hurricanes Rita and Ike, I appreciate the overwhelming challenges Texas state officials face in deploying the immediate response and the carrying out long-term rebuilding.

In past natural disasters the State has frankly not been well enough prepared for the long-term rebuilding.

Texas Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., whose district was devastated by Hurricane Dolly, and Texas Representative Craig Eiland, who represents the Galveston community which was ground zero for Hurricane Ike, took steps way back in 2009 to help Texas be better prepared next time around. They passed and Governor Perry signed, legislation establishing a Natural Disaster Housing Reconstruction Advisory Committee to plan the best response for rebuilding homes in the wake of the next disaster.

I was a member of the committee which published its recommendations three years ago.

This week Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst instructed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security to conduct an interim study on the State’s disaster recovery plans.  Here is the specific charge from the Lt. Gov…

• Examine the role of state and local governments regarding recovery operations across the state in the event of a disaster. Study and make recommendations to identify essential personnel and resources needed to increase existing response capabilities. Make recommendations on how state, local governments, and businesses can work together in order to assist with the rebuilding/recovery of affected jurisdictions in the event of a disaster.

The committee will meet between now and December 2014 to hold hearings, study and make recommendations to do a better disaster recovery. The work of the Natural Disaster Housing Reconstruction Advisory Committee, coupled with the experience administering disaster rebuilding programs gained by the Texas General Land Office, can inform the senate committee as they put together a plan to make sure Texas builds on the lessons from past disasters.

We commend Lt. Gov. Dewhurst for this action.

The senators on the Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security Committee are:

Craig Estes, Wichita Falls, (R), Chair
Carlos Uresti, San Antonio, (D), Vice Chair
Glenn Hegar, (R), Katy
Charles Schwertner, (R), Georgetown