Hazard mitigation funding for Harvey recovery becomes available

Ed Sterling

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott traveled to Rockport and Houston on Feb. 13 to announce the availability of new funding for hazard mitigation projects along the Gulf Coast following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

Abbott invited cities and counties to submit applications for projects and said the funding would provide an estimated $1 billion for hazard and flood mitigation projects designed to both help Texas rebuild and reduce the risk of future damage from flooding and Hurricanes. 

The funding, to be administered by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, can be used for:

- Buyouts and elevations of flood prone properties;

- Drainage and reservoir projects that eliminate future flooding;

- Projects to lessen the frequency or severity of flooding;

- Flood risk reduction projects such as dams, retention basins, levees, floodwalls; and

- Large-scale channeling of waterways.

Of the estimated $1 billion that Texas will receive, $500 million in funding is available now, while the remaining funding will be provided on or before August 25. Additional funds may also become available as FEMA continues to process and approve project requests from Texas cities and counties, the governor's office said.

AG Paxton joins coalition 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Feb. 13 joined a bipartisan coalition of 56 states and territories urging Congress “to end secret, forced arbitration in cases of workplace sexual harassment.”

In a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the coalition led by Florida and North Carolina asked Congress to pass legislation to ensure that sexual harassment victims have a right to their day in court.

“Congress today has both opportunity and cause to champion the rights of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace by enacting legislation to free them from the injustice of forced arbitration and secrecy when it comes to seeking redress from egregious misconduct condemned by all concerned Americans,” the states’ attorneys general wrote.

Electioneering addressed 

Attorney General Ken Paxton on Feb. 14 dispatched cease-and-desist letters to Brazosport, Holliday and Lewisville independent school districts regarding alleged violations of the Texas Education Code for unlawful electioneering. 

Those school districts, Paxton said, used taxpayer resources to distribute messages to their staff and the public advocating for or against certain political candidates and measures.

“My office fully encourages Texas schools to educate their students on civic duties and assist them in registering to vote. But pushing faculty or others to vote for a particular person is a clear violation of the Texas Election and Education Codes,” Paxton said.  

The letters include screenshots of the school district’s political messaging on social media, as well as campaign videos. In some cases, Paxton said, districts distributed partisan information on behalf of the school district as a government entity, using resources that belong to Texas taxpayers. 

African-Americans honored

Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 9 proclaimed the month of February to be African-American History Month in Texas.

“As a state and nation shaped by the diversity of our citizens, it is vital we recognize and celebrate the different races, nationalities and backgrounds of the land we love.  In particular, African-Americans have made tremendous contributions to our society.  

“Having faced slavery, many forms of oppression, deep-rooted adversity and the very real dangers of demanding equality and change, the contributions and achievements of African-Americans are imbued with a unique strength and resilience, which are respected and greatly valued in the Lone Star State,” Abbott stated in the proclamation.

Heart health is focus

State Rep. Walter “Four” Price, R-Amarillo, authored House Resolution 2683 in the 2017 session of the Texas Legislature to recognize February as “American Heart Month in Texas.”

On Feb. 14, Price, who chairs the House Committee on Public Health, noted that heart disease is the leading cause of death among adult Texans and the leading cause of death for women. 

“February is the perfect month to raise overall awareness of potential heart disease and encourage specific individual attention to heart health, given the celebration of Valentine’s Day. My hope is that everyone takes the time to love his/her very own heart by seriously thinking about heart health,” Price said.