State Legislature Update
The Legislature was in town, that’s for sure. They essentially had two things on their minds: redistricting and budget.
Redistricting for county precinct boundaries, Texas Senate and House Districts, and U.S. Congressional districts (where Texas is gaining 4) were redrawn. The maps have gone to court, and the legal process is playing havoc with the upcoming elections, we hope it all gets ironed out very soon. The state budget, which was cut by billions of dollars to be balanced as required by the state constitution, impacted the floodplain and dam safety programs of most interest to TFMA at the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Overall, the need to reduce the budget was so severe that neither TFMA nor TCRFC offered any intervention. There were higher priorities than flood issues, and our friends in state government did not offer any help. We sat this one out, but now that its over, there were losses. We hope to come back when the economy improves, as requested by the TFMA Board and the TCRFC Board, hopefully by the next session. TWDB reports that all capital dollars have been zeroed out, and its floodplain program was cut in half. There is bad news that there are big reductions in program funding, but the good news is that when the economy turns around, these programs will have survived and can be re-built. As you know, the House and Senate must agree on the budget, which required some last minute cuts, including the TWDB Floodplain program.
U.S. Congress Update
As you know revision of the NFIP bill is getting some attention. There has been disagreement since Katrina on how to re-structure the NFIP. While it is easy to point a finger at levees as the reason, there are other issues, such as adding wind coverage. Recent concessions by FEMA indicate levee owners may get more time to inspect and improve their levee systems to the new higher standards, but there is no indication those new standards will be relaxed, in the program as it may finally be revised. There is support in the Senate for writing off the NFIP debt, but not the House, and with the recent conservative shift, this appears unlikely. Word from FEMA recently is that its programs are fairing very well in the ongoing budget wars. We remain very hopeful that we will get a good, well-funded NFIP bill out of this Congress but don’t hold your breath.