Senator Creighton authors Senate Bill 7, which the Texas Senate passed unanimously March 20, to set up funding mechanism to disburse Harvey relief dollars

Senator Brandon Creighton, Republican of Conroe, spoke in favor of Senate Bill 7 on March 20, 2019, which he authored and which passed the Texas Senate 31 to 0, to provide a funding mechanism for relief from the Harvey storm.

Austin, March 21 – The Texas Senate unanimously passed legislation, which Senator Brandon Creighton of Conroe and fourteen others authored, to provide a funding mechanism to disburse federal relief funds for the Harvey storm on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said, “Senator Creighton, I really do believe this is one of the most important bills this body has ever passed for the entire State of Texas and our future.”

The legislation now goes to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.

Senator Creighton’s speech to the Texas Senate yesterday afternoon, March 20, 2019, follows:

Members,

On August 27th, 2017, the National Weather Service issued this warning…”This event is unprecedented and all impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced.”

It’s been 20 months and we are finally understanding the impacts of this unprecedented, 1,000 year storm.

I would like to begin by thanking everyone for their commitment to responding and rebuilding after Harvey and everyone who has worked so hard on getting this bill to this point. Right after Harvey hit, we were in the response phase for a few weeks, making sure people had places to sleep and clothes to wear. Soon after that we got right to work on many pieces of legislation including this bill, Senate Bill 7.

Ever since the Ag & Water hearing we held in Montgomery County we knew the state needed to step up in a big way.

Special thanks to Governor Patrick and Governor Abbott for prioritizing Harvey recovery this session and all last interim and to Senators Perry and Kolkhorst for spearheading this with me.

A big thanks goes to Senator Nelson for working so hard on a conservative budget and supplemental budget that includes over 3 billion in funding for Harvey.

1.65 billion of those dollars are contingent upon the passage of SB7.

SB 7 creates the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund, or TIRF, which is the funding mechanism to disburse Harvey recovery dollars and future dollars for flood mitigation strategies. This bill will bring Texas tax dollars back to the state, maximizing federal recovery funds.

This fund will be administered by the Texas Water Development Board and is the state’s Texas-sized response for recovery from Harvey and mitigation in the future.

This bill utilizes an existing account at the TWDB and expands the use of the fund. The Floodplain Management Account is renamed TIRF and will contain 4 accounts:

  1. Floodplain Management Account – this account maintains the current existing duty of the account. Existing funds will remain in the account with the same revenue streams and uses that already exists in statute.
  2. Harvey Recovery Account – This account only exists to disburse state dollars to meet the local match requirements for federal dollars. This will only include outstanding Public Assistance costs and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program costs.
  3. Flood Plan Implementation Account – This account will cooperate with the State Flood Plan, created by SB 8. Mitigation projects to protect us from future storms will be identified and prioritized in the State Flood Plan and can seek funding from this account.
  4. Federal Match Account – This account will be used by projects partnering with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The bill also includes several protective provisions

  • political subdivisions applying for the fund must put up at least 25% of the remaining non-federal share.
  • The fund will be transparent by putting information on projects online for everyone to track projects
  • TIRF will be overseen by on oversight committee comprised of 3 House members, 3 Senate members, the Comptroller, and the director of TDEM
  • We also added language from SB 563 that requires agencies that use federal fund to create a report on where the money comes from and where it goes.

Harvey was a storm of biblical proportions is not an everyday, expected occurrence. We didn’t budget last year expecting experience the largest storm in US history. However, we have budgeted conservatively over that past years. We have saved money in our Rainy Day Fund and it is at a historic balance. The Rainy Day Fund was created precisely for events like this – one time expenditures to recover and rebuild.

When owning a businesses, you don’t budget for a machine to break, but when it does, you have to pay for it.

That’s what the Rainy Day Fund is for. When you consider that $775 million spent by the state of Texas brings back over $5 billion of Texas’ tax payers money from Washington DC, this is a fiscally sound use of tax payer money. And Senate Bill 7 places safeguards on the disbursement of the money so we know exactly how and where and why the money is being spent.

Members, on behalf of southeast Texas, I’d like to thank each of you for the efforts of you and your constituents for helping our part of Texas respond to Harvey. As you say, Governor Patrick, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Around Senate District 4, the loss was so great. An area of southeast Texas greater than the size of New Jersey was underwater. This storm set the record for total rainfall and total damage in our nation’s history.

Even today, people are displaced from their homes, and businesses remain closed. However, Texans once again showed the world how to step up and help each other out.

It was a great display of how Texans have each others’ back. Senate Bill 7 is the next step of stepping up and taking care of each other. The next storm is “when,” not “if.” So let’s take bold action today to prepare Texas.

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