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The intent of SB 1376 as described by the bill author's statement of intent is to "improves publicly administered disaster recovery programs by reducing the period of time disaster survivors are out of their homes, maximizing local control over disaster reconstruction, and reducing the cost of recovery to homeowners and taxpayers."
SB 1376 would codify the role of the General Land Office (GLO) in distributing state and federal natural disaster relief funds. The bill would require the GLO to work with state and federal agencies to secure reimbursement for housing needs in areas affected by natural disasters. The bill would task the GLO with securing preemptive approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development for the "immediate post-disaster implementation of local housing recovery plans approved by the governor. The bill would also give the governor the authority to replace the GLO as the agency responsible for long term disaster recovery.
SB 1376 would allow local governments to institute their own disaster recovery plans with input from a variety of public and private sources. The Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center at Texas A&M University would be tasked with certifying state plans. The bill would authorize the GLO to review local government recovery plans but would require GLO to defer to local governments in matters where they have discretion. Any such plan accepted by the GLO would be submitted by that agency to the governor for final approval. A plan approved by the governor would be valid for four years and could be used during that time without further approval.
No changes have been made to this bill in House committee. The second chamber sponsor is Rep. Todd Hunter.
First chamber recommendation:
The intention of this bill is laudable enough; to improve efficiency of acquiring and disbursing state and federal disaster recovery funds in the aftermath of a declared natural disaster and to make sure the state and local governments are well prepared, trained, and equipped to utilize those funds to speedily rebuild.
A speedy recovery in the wake of a disaster is an indisputably good thing. Whether or not the state is the best judge of how to achieve that goal is debatable. Often times the greatest obstacle to overcome in rebuilding, and one of the greatest costs, is complying with government regulations. We support measures to make the process more efficient but question the need for 13 full time state employees to get the job done as the fiscal note indicates would be required.
Ultimately, this bill would increase the size and scope of state government. For that reason we oppose SB 1376.