The Austin Chronicle

Ike and the 81st Lege

How did Galveston fare at the Capitol?

By Richard Whittaker, September 11, 2009, News

When Hurricane Ike devastated the Gulf Coast, Gov. Rick Perry did not see fit to call a special session of the state Legislature. Instead, he waited for the regular session, when lawmakers passed a series of bills intended to rebuild Galveston and prepare for the next hurricane:

Senate Bill 1: The state budget. The biggest budget argument centered around the decision to not use the state's Rainy Day Fund for Ike reconstruction (as many lawmakers bitterly noted, how rainy does it have to get?). Critics argued that the fund was intended for emergency spending like this, but the Legislature instead decided to use general revenue, thus setting a worrying precedent for the disaster fund. Ultimately, Galveston's University of Texas Medical Branch received $566.5 million in general revenue, up $109 million from last biennium.

House Bill 51: This law, intended to raise the number of Tier 1 universities in Texas, included $150 million in tuition revenue bonds for UTMB to cover new hospital construction.

HB 1831: This law reforms the powers and responsibilities of the Division of Emergency Management of the Office of the Governor, including establishment of an emergency shelter database. It also mandates a new state Emergency Management Plan Annex, covering service provision in event of a disaster, and introduces new mandatory evacuation and phased re-entry rules.

HB 4409: This law brings about the long-awaited reform of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, the state's insurer of last resort. It is supposed to provide incentives to private insurers to cover coastal residents, as well as stabilize the TWIA accounts to cover up to $2.5 billion in storm damage.

HB 4586: The supplementary appropriations bill. This law provides $425 million in disaster recovery funds for 28 agencies, including $150 million for UTMB, $6.2 million for Texas A&M Galveston, and $407,000 for Galveston College.

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