The House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety met on March 20 to take up and consider bills. The report below focuses on bills relating to disaster response and emergency management.

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics the committee took up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the hearing, but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.


HB 2345 (Walle) Relating to resources to facilitate disaster mitigation, response, and recovery.

  • Walle – Increasing impacts of storms and natural disasters has highlighted the need to better understand disaster risks to local communities
  • Universities have already begun work in studying disasters and how to mitigate disaster damage
  • HB 2345 will increase coordination, creates an Institute for Disaster Resilient Texas, which will be responsible for collecting data and performing data analytics for flood resiliency in Texas
  • Institute would be housed at Texas A&M
  • Paul – Is this Institute an organization you are creating?
    • Simple answer is yes, would put the best and brightest in the same room.
  • Paul – Funding for this?
    • $70k-$80k fiscal note, ultimate goal would be to draw down some federal funds


Henry Van de Putte III, American Red Cross Texas Gulf Coast Region – On

  • Advocating for greater disaster awareness and preparedness
  • Israel – Do you see a role for the Red Cross with this Institute?
    • We have in role in every part of response, but we work closely with Chief Nim Kidd and would welcome a role with shelters and feeding in the immediate aftermath


Wes Birdwell, Texas Floodplain Management Association – For

  • Floodplain Management Assoc is about building resiliency, HB 2345 will help with the resiliency planning process
  • This bill is good for planning and mitigation;  does not specifically mention mapping, which is an essential part of flood resiliency
  • Paul – If we can get this money in and get these floodplain studies, would that be the basic data we need for studying and analyzing these projects?
    • Yes
  • Paul – Harris County and other big cities have good flood control authorities but some of the smaller cities do not
    • Agree, there are about half a dozen of the bigger cities with effective flood control authorities but in rural areas they do not have the same resources
  • Goodwin – In my district in Travis County there is a neighborhood (Onion Creek) that has flooded a couple times, would this help with places like that?
    • Yes, we have done work in Onion Creek; we need leadership from the state that brings another level of focus on this issue


Sam Brody, CTBS Research Center at Texas A&M – For

  • Led a team that did data analytics and mitigation parts of a report on Harvey
  • Institute was a recommendation of the report, would use risk-based and data-driven techniques to inform people like Nim Kidd and other agencies about flood and other disaster risk
  • Texas should be the place where people around the world come to learn about floods
  • Israel – Are you a scientist?
    • I have a Ph.D. in coastal management and engineering and teach at Texas A&M. Have been studying disasters for my 20-year career
  • Israel – How do you see this Institute helping future legislative bodies?
    • This Institute will give data and informational tools to legislative bodies that results in saving of lives and protection of property
  • Israel – Will it help in times of drought as well as floods?
    • Yes, it will help with drought, heat, coastal and inland flooding and other disasters
  • Israel – I am concerned about people like you being impaired by political pressures
    • While writing the report I did not feel pressured by politics, I think sometimes scientists could actually be more involved in the policy and action; data and risk-based decisions should be part of the political process
  • Paul – Toured the CTBS facilities, they are able to model exactly what the storm surge will look like; allows people to type in their address and see what the surge would look like for them
    • This is something we have done, and it is just scratching the surface
    • We need a more integrated information system that alerts homeowners and stakeholders in the area
  • Calanni – What is your opinion on flood control tunnels?
    • My initial impression was that it was crazy, but after studying it I think it is a good idea. Technology has made great strides in the past 10 years and Japan is doing something bigger than the Houston proposal
  • Calanni – If you only had a certain amount of money would you build a reservoir or tunnel?
    • Would have to study it further
  • Nevarez – Are you familiar with the standard reasonable degree of scientific probability?
    • Somewhat
  • Nevarez – Is that something you are going to couch this work in?
    • Yes, all models are wrong, but some are useful. When we make predictions, it is probabilistic and there is error. Decision-makers and the public do not need to know exact centimeters, they need 2-3 feet
  • Nevarez – Would you agree that if someone tries to attack reasonable degree of probability using a possibility that would not be acceptable?
    • Correct
  • Walle – Texas has 12 different watersheds, this is not just a Houston bill it affects all of Texas


HB 2345 left pending


HB 2330 (Walle) Relating to a study of an intake system and state case management system for state and federal disaster assistance.

  • Walle – Study for state case management system: feasibility of single intake form to compile info for state & federal programs, automated intake system, and state-administered management system with contracting with private vendors
  • Many victims of disasters are left without resources, HB 2330 is a good start to assess needs
  • Calanni – Would this study also highlight errors with FEMA?
    • Process by which we assess the case management component takes to long, trying to ensure we respond in a timely manner; goal is to streamline process with state-based intake form
  • Calanni – Had extensive issues contacting FEMA, response to property damage is uneven
  • Tinderholt – How is this going to be different than federal programs?
    • You have the 211 system through United Way, the FEMA line, the food bank, etc.; intent is to streamline the process, might be able to share info between entities
  • Tinderholt – Also want to make sure that all members are talking about the solutions for their constituents, look at how we take all of these pieces and combine them into one plan
    • Agrees, looking to work to assist his constituents, HB 2330 is a very coordinated effort


No testimony


HB 2330 left pending


HB 2335 (Walle) Relating to the disaster supplemental nutrition assistance program.

  • Walle – Relates to administration of SNAP, saw serious issues with distribution during the disaster & HHSC struggled to find sufficiently large sites that met federal regulations
  • HB 2335 directs HHSC to coordinate with county judges and mayors to develop a list of sites that meet requirements, directs HHSC to assess feasibility of accepting applications online or through phone
  • Goal is to avoid logistics issues by having sites selected ahead of time & streamline applications
  • Online/telephone option would likely require a federal waiver, would need staff; currently required to apply in person
  • Phelan – D-SNAP was not rolled out properly in my district post-storm, many who had to relocate outside the state were prevented from obtaining D-SNAP
    • Agrees, many saw flooding, etc. which prevented them getting to a D-SNAP center


Celia Cole, Feeding Texas – For

  • Provides overview of foodbank operations during a disaster
  • Saw chaos associated with D-SNAP
  • Recommends establishing a pre-registration process before the disaster hits so HHSC can have info quickly, could make telephone or online assistance go more smoothly
  • Recommends thinking about methods to reach evacuees, those in shelters are those likely to need D-SNAP


Rep. Walle closes

  • Supports efforts of other members, has been a very good process


HB 2335 left pending


CSHB 5 (Phelan) Relating to debris management and other disaster recovery efforts.

  • CS laid out
  • Phelan – Debris was a major problem after Harvey, removal was significantly delayed and cause public health issues
  • Directs TDEM to create Debris Management Plan & develop a model contract
  • Also creates two study groups for specific issues with debris removal, incl. wet debris rights & responsibilities
  • CS allows TDEM to create state plan with any individual deemed appropriate, including institute of higher ed, not just Texas A&M
  • Debris has mental health, public health, flooding, etc. impacts, persistent problems


No testimony


CS withdrawn, HB 5 left pending


HB 6 (Morrison) Relating to developing a disaster recovery task force to assist with long-term disaster recovery.

  • CS laid out
  • Morrison – Disaster recovery task force to assist with long-term disaster recovery, based on recommendations from Gov.’s Commission to Rebuild Texas & Eye of the Storm Report, part of 14 bill package derived from the recommendations
  • HB 6 tasks TDEM with developing disaster recovery task force to assist communities & individual with various assistance, designed to operate throughout the disaster & long-term recovery period
  • Mission is to strengthen recovery functions while utilization higher ed
  • CS updates language to clarify that Task Force is able to work with all institutes of higher ed, not just Texas A&M


Burt Mills, Aransas County Judge – For

  • Aransas County supports HB 6 & 7 by Rep. Morrison, intend to adopt these at next Commissioner’s Court, plans reflect best practices identified & structures in place would have assisted recovery of Aransas County
  • Long-term recovery needs drastic attention, large number of issues like timing of grant dollars, environmental clearance issues
  • Paul – How is Aransas County doing now?
    • Recovering, not an experience I want to repeat
  • Israel – Do you think we are creating something that will outlive you and mean & will continue to be helpful in the future?
    • I certainly hope so, long-term recovery is the “disaster after the disaster”


Ben Zeller, Victoria County Judge – For

  • Supports HB 6 & 7, based on recommendations in the Eye of the Storm Report
  • Victoria County has strong interest in seeing these recommendations adopted, Victoria County’s own emergency management director helped put together the report and recs
  • With this in place, response to next disaster would be more streamlined


Patrick Ri0s, City of Rockport Mayor – For

  • Our community was not prepared for long-term recovery process, were able to put together a long-term recovery team with help of other organizations, but running municipality complicates recovery
  • State would benefit from having plans for other disasters like fire, flood, tornado, etc.


Kay Roach, City of Woodsboro Mayor – For

  • Imperative that HBs related to recovery pass, need for assistance in rural areas is great
  • Rural areas do not have the resources needed for recovery, long-term recovery efforts are nonexistent in rural areas and towns
  • Want to ensure that there is funding involved for rural communities, can’t implement recommendations without this
  • Israel – One thing I know about rural communities, internet is needed; what is your internet service like?
    • AT&T is good, needed to bring in towers immediately after the hurricane to assist with response, but Woodsboro didn’t know to do this & needed assistance
  • Paul – So coordination with new mayors is something we should be doing?
    • Absolutely, need to have standardized practices & need to know who to call


Jeff Bauknight, City of Victoria City Council – For

  • HB 6 would be very beneficial in creating the task force that could centralize and disseminate best practices, will be a huge benefit for the smaller communities


Jimmy Kendrick, City of Fulton Mayor – For

  • HB 6 is about developing the “bible” for response, will help future generations and grow over time


Nim Kidd, Texas Division of emergency Management – Resource

  • Israel – Part of my district is rural, dealing not just with Harvey, but other disasters; wanted your opinion on how this would help rural areas and assist with communication
    • Will help all Texans, idea is that Texas does not have much of a long-term recovery plan and not much long-term recovery capability
    • Can build sustainable long-term recovery task forces throughout each community in Texas led by local officials
    • Communities need help & support to sustain this
  • Israel – How do gaps in tech around the state affect your work?
    • Tech is not equal across the board with all partners, we have deployable resources
    • Partnering with higher ed can allow us to use their infrastructure/network
  • Israel – Notes say that Task Force will brief the legislature quarterly, what does this mean?
    • Ideally we would be holding quarterly meetings to allow legislators and staff to be briefed on last 90 days
  • Goodwin – You mention task forces in each community?
    • Single task force with fingers throughout Texas
  • Goodwin – Bill does not outline specifics, does have 28 FTEs, are these the members of the task force?
    • HB 6 and task force would hire new employees to work in disaster districts with mayors and county judges to help plan for long-term recovery
    • State has stumbled transferring from rescue to recovery, task force builds structure for to bridge this gap
  • Goodwin – Who determines who is on the task force?
    • Left to study/stakeholders, 28 members working with regional districts


William DeLibero, City of Port Lavaca City Manager – For

  • Task force has great value in driving recovery events, should ask for input from local officials
  • Large need during recovery was for state and federal partners, recovery could have been increased with appropriate staffing patterns, etc.


Rep. Morrison closes

  • I know there are questions on how this will work, HB 6 is about developing the task force and avoids naming who is on the task force; want input from many individuals and organizations
  • There will be a fiscal note at some time, but need to decide how to put this together first, will come together with bills offered by other members


CS withdrawn, HB 6 left pending


HB 7 (Morrison) Relating to disaster preparation for state agencies and political subdivisions.

  • CS laid out
  • Morrison – Part of the Eye of the Storm bill package
  • HB 7 emphasizes the disaster preparation, eliminates administrative burden by directing maintaining standing list of regulatory waivers needed, compiling statutes and rules that must be suspended, working out partnership agreements beforehand
  • Directs TDEM to develop plan to assist local governments in drafting contracts for services
  • CS differs by adding language allowing TDEM to consult with any state agency appropriate, rather than limiting only to Texas A&M


Burt Mills, Aransas County Judge – For

  • Aransas county will be passing resolution this coming Monday in support of HB 7
  • Small counties need all the help they can get, don’t have the staff to prepare for disasters


Patrick Rios, City of Rockport Mayor – For

  • Testifies in favor of the bill


Jimmy Kendrick, City of Fulton Mayor – For

  • Will help give Fulton leeway in disaster preparedness, will be a good measure going forward


William DiLibero, Port Lavaca City Manager – For

  • Disaster prep contracts are important for cities, need contracts in place before disaster to be adequately prepared
  • Should seek input from cities and counties


Darrell Fowler, DeWitt County Judge – For

  • Gov. Abbott suspended TxDOT’s ability to issue new overweight truck licenses, difficult for counties to cope in areas where O&G traffic is high, supports part of the bill that suggests county officials are contacted before these prohibitions are lifted
  • Also supports portions for having contracts in place before disasters


CS withdrawn, HB 7 left pending.


HB 2794 (Morrison) Relating to the administration of emergency management in this state.

  • CS laid out
  • Morrison – HB 1794 aligns statute with reorganization of TDEM within the Texas A&M university system, reorganization was announced by the Gov. in December
  • Functions of TDEM align with existing functions at Texas A&M, integrating and co-locating similar activates could reduce the
  • Video issue @1:09pm – 1:11pm
  • Gives background & public service history on Nim Kidd with the Texas Division of Emergency Management


Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management – Resource

  • Texas A&M is the only higher ed institute with state agencies in the system, majority are used in disaster response; more daily coordination between these agencies will help the state
  • Provides overview of extent of Agrilife Extension’s operations
  • Task Force 1, 2, and 3, Forest Service, etc. are excellent response services
  • Will be able to leverage resources for recovery with reorganization
  • Israel – These are entities that will work together during emergencies and post-emergency?
    • Yes, and pre-emergency
  • Israel – So we’re creating an entity for the purposes of communication, not that they will report to you?
    • They will not report to me aside from emergency management response


Mike Wisko, City of Galveston Fire Chief, Texas Fire Chiefs Association – For

  • Fire chiefs are in support of this, see it as strengthening response & emergency management


Patrick Rios, City of Rockport Mayor – For

  • Texas Task Force 1 was a great resource for Rockport, Nim Kidd coordinated response and resources from Texas A&M


Rhonda Sepulveda, Catholic Charities, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops – For

  • Testifies in support, Agrilife is important


Jimmy Kendrick, City of Fulton Mayor – For

  • Texas needs coordination in disaster response, confusing to determine who needs to be contacted to obtain support; HB 2794 will allow different entities to work together without conflict


Rep. Morrison closes

  • Bill is about reorganization to be prepared for the next disaster


CS withdrawn, HB 2794 left pending


HB 2325 (Metcalf) Relating to providing information and communication regarding and during a disaster.

  • CS laid out
  • Metcalf – Directs TDEM to work towards equipping 911 systems with text messaging capabilities, develop social media outreach, use data analytics to integrate data from multiple sources, conduct study on first responder communications, work to create common communication framework
  • Would also require Gov’s Office and TDEM to create web portal for services and resources available
  • CS would require local emergency officials to develop plan to use State of Texas Emergency Assistance Registry, also removes references for exclusive consultation with A&M
  • Tinderholt – Bill talks about creating a new app, is there nothing off the shelf available?
    • Would like to leave this up to TDEM
  • Goodwin – Fiscal statement says there is no impact to cities, but a couple counties said there would be a fiscal impact?
    • Unsure, can get this to you
  • Goodwin – Wondering why for one county, is there something different about this county?
    • Do not have this information


Rhonda Sepulveda, Catholic Charities, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops – For

  • Presents statements from organizations
  • Important to have guidelines for social media, can be helpful to get info to survivors, but can also be used to spread rumors
  • Florida has a great system for social media outreach, could be systems in place we can explore


Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management – Resource

  • Israel – COGs have a system where you can opt-in and receive government emergency updates, what is the connection between this bill and COG system?
    • There are several reverse 911 systems, but they are opt-in
    • Systems have been development since Katrina, might have the right tech in about 3 or 4 more years, missing text to 911, missing ways for community to get real time info
    • During Harvey, there were almost too many people passing out info, want to see a bridge between resources and people sending messages
  • Israel – What is the role of the COGs
    • More collaboration than anything else, not necessarily directing response
  • Israel – But they have the infrastructure you need
    • Some do, not all
  • Israel – Looking for assurances that you are working smarter
    • Yes, we are working to ensure we are not duplicating efforts
  • Tinderholt – Hopes that Kidd explores off the shelf solutions first to avoid ballooning costs


Rep. Metcalf closes

  • Israel – Do you mind if I contact my COG and work with you to see if there is some helpful language?
    • Would love to work with you


CS withdrawn, HB 2325 left pending


HB 2320 (Paul) Relating to services provided during and following a disaster.

  • Compilation of 4 recommendations, directs TDEM to collaborate with public and private entities to provide communication services, determine availability of deployable comms resources, identify areas that can be hardened, develop report of availability of building trade services, create public awareness and bill payment assistance programs
  • Will be submitting CS to address issues


No testimony


HB 2320 left pending


HB 2315 (Thompson, Ed) Relating to evidence of ownership of temporary housing provided by a government agency in response to a natural disaster or other declared emergency.

  • Currently FEMA rents trailers that are exempt from titling requirements which causes owner of record problems
  • HB 2315 directs TDHCA to adopt rules to issue statements of ownership & establishes process for DMV to issue title to government agencies for these trailers


Joe Garcia, Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs – Resource

  • Exec. Dir. Of manufactured housing division
  • Israel – What would the impact be to TDHCA if this were adopted?
    • No significant impact, we do this already
  • Israel – Is your agency prepared to do more electronic transactions? Might be difficult for people to get to you in times of crisis
    • We are, getting ready to launch new feature through website geared towards manufactured housing
  • Israel – Since you’re upgrading anyway, this would be well suited?
    • Sure


HB 2315 left pending


HB 2340 (Dominguez) Relating to emergency and disaster management, response, and recovery.

  • CS laid out
  • Dominguez – Part of the Eye of the Storm recommendations bills
  • CSHB 2340 requires the office of State & Federal Relations to work with TDEM to make recommendations to streamline federal policies, creates an information sharing work group to examine issues & make recs to improve data quality, establishes unmanned aircraft study group to recommend changes to state law to allow better use of drones
  • CS differs by removing references to Texas A&M, replaces with reference to “institutes of higher education”
  • Clardy – Have you talked to other members with similar bills?
    • Staff has been in contact, bills taken together provide a better approach going forward


No testimony


CS withdrawn, HB 2340 left pending


HB 3022 (Miller) Relating to emergency warning systems operated by municipalities and counties.

  • CS laid out
  • Miller – Changes were made to FCC alerts system after Harvey to allow for targeted communications
  • HB 3022 allows individuals to opt-in to a local emergency warning system when applying for an original or renewal driver license, allows written request for removal
  • CS clarifies language in Subsection D


Ken DeMerchant, Fort Bend County Commissioner – For

  • Commissioner’s Court passed resolution for this bill unanimously
  • Fort Bend saw many issues with conflicting and incorrect messages being sent, Fort Bend purchased a notification system after Harvey, but had no resident information for notification
  • Need assistance gathering info for notification system to work, not asking for assistance on getting this implemented after info is received


HB 3022 left pending


HB 1307 (Hinojosa) Relating to the creation of a disaster case management system by the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

  • Hinojosa – Heard a lot of frustration in Travis County with inability to know what other emergency management entities were doing, HB 1307 seeks to address this


Fatima Mann, Community Advocacy & Healing Project – For

  • People were lost in the cracks during Harvey response due to lack of communication, needed to push grassroots efforts to compensate
  • HB 1307 would combat people getting lost & help provide resources for those in need


Rhonda Sepulveda, Catholic Charities, Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops – For

  • Needs to be more ways to communicate and engage to ensure people are not lost
  • Would hope that some of the bills considered today will pass & that the state helps support communities
  • Bill should seek to find an approach that facilitates comprehensive services and nonprofits should be central to the approach


Nim Kidd, Texas Division of Emergency Management – Resource

  • HB 1307 would allow streamlining for disaster case management


HB 1307 left pending