Two bills were introduced in the last Legislative session to study flooding in the Houston region. Both died in committee.
SB1269 was authored by State Senator Boris Miles and co-sponsored by Senators John Whitmire and Sylvia Garcia. The bill would have authorized $1.5 million to establish and fund a task force to complete a “comprehensive flood control infrastructure study.” Not exactly bold leadership, but to the Senate’s credit SB1269 was approved unanimously.
But it never saw the light of day in the House. When it was received by the House from the Senate it was referred to the Natural Resources Committee. There is no one from the Houston region on that committee. No member of the Houston delegation picked up the bill. The committee held about a five-minute perfunctory hearing. Representative Armando Walle appears to have been the only Houston area representative to speak in favor of the bill. The bill was “left pending” in the committee at the end of the session.
Senator Larry Taylor introduced SB2265, which would have restructured an existing entity to give it the power to begin constructing a coastal spine system to protect the region from storm surges. But the bill did not authorize any funds and was contingent on the federal government funding the entire project. It, too, was approved by the Senate unanimously.
In the House, SB2265 was referred to the Special Purpose Districts Committee, which is chaired by Representative Jim Murphy. Representative Wayne Faircloth, from Galveston, filed a companion bill, HB4308. There are notations that these bills were heard briefly in committee, but both were also left pending at the end of the session.
These bills were utterly inadequate compared to the challenges that our region faces from flooding. They really called for nothing more than additional studies. To paraphrase Mark Twain, there has been so much research on this subject “it is probable that if they continue we shall soon know nothing at all about it.”
But the fact that our Legislature could not even pass these watered-down (excuse the pun) measures is pathetic. Of course, the Legislature had time to argue about all manner of nonsense in this session, but when it came to actually doing something about one of the most persistent threats to our region, they took a powder.
The threat of large scale flooding from either a storm surge or massive rain events, such as what we just experienced, cannot be effectively addressed solely at the local level. The scope of these events exceeds the jurisdictional limits of any single municipality or county. While there is certainly a role for local entities, we also need a regional approach.
Ideally, Governor Abbott should call a special session to deal with this problem. At a minimum, we need a robust interim study so the Legislature is prepared to immediately take action on flooding in our region when the Legislature meets again in 2019.