Tag Archive for: Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund

Creighton’s SB7 Passed Unanimously by Senate, Bill Goes to House Today

NOTE: This article has been updated to include the paragraph below entitled Floodplain Implementation Account. I also added a mention of a separate appropriations bill, SB500.

One of the most important pieces of legislation in Austin this session is SB7, sponsored by Senator Brandon Creighton. It relates to flood control planning and the funding of flood planning, mitigation, and infrastructure projects.

Light pole near River Bend in North Shore as Harvey receded. Note the “wet marks” several feet up on pole. Photo by Jim Balcom.

Status of SB7

The Texas Senate passed the bill unanimously yesterday. It is now engrossed and in the House. Engrossed means it has been recorded in its final legal form by the chamber in which it was introduced and passed to the opposite chamber.

SB 7 started life as SB 695, but was renumbered when it became one of the Lieutenant Governor’s top picks for the session. The lower number makes it one of the first bills to be considered, thus increasing its chances of passage during this session.

Last week, the Senate heard testimony on the bill. Yesterday, 31 senators voted by voice FOR the bill. None opposed it.

What SB7 Includes

Key provisions of the final version of SB7 include:

  • Creation of a Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund outside of the General Revenue Fund. Within the Resiliency Fund, it also creates:
  • A Floodplain Management Account to provide financing for: (A) the collection and analysis of flood-related information; (B) flood planning, protection, mitigation, or adaptation; (C) the provision of flood-related information to the public through educational or outreach programs; or (D) evaluating the response to and mitigation of flood incidents affecting residential property, including multifamily units, located in floodplains.
  • A Floodplain Implementation Account to grant, low-interest, or zero-interest loans. Purposes: (A) to provide matching funds that enable local governments to participate in a federal program for a flood project; (B) to provide loans at or below market interest rates for planning or design costs, permitting costs, or other costs associated with state or federal regulatory activities for flooding; or (C) to provide grants that enable local governments to participate in a federal program for the development of a hazard mitigation plan.
  • A Hurricane Harvey account, also within the resiliency fund to grant low-interest or zero-interest loans to eligible political subdivisions. The loans can be used as a local match to enable political subdivisions to qualify for a federal match. The loans will help local governments seeking federal grants for hazard-mitigation and public-assistance plans or the cost of flood-project planning, design, permitting, etc. associated with state or federal regulatory activities.
  • A Federal Matching Fund Account. The board may use the account only to meet matching requirements for projects funded partially by federal money, including projects funded by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Rules regarding the distribution of funds, administration, transparency, etc.

What SB7 Does NOT Include

Not in the engrossed version sent to the House: a specific dollar amount to establish the fund. When introduced, SB 695 called for $3 billion to be transferred from the “rainy day” fund to establish the resiliency fund. That’s no longer in the bill.

In its place, the bill now has some vague language that refers to:

  • Money deposited to the credit of the account under Section 251.004, Insurance Code;
  • Money directly appropriated to the board;
  • Money from gifts or grants from the United States government, local or regional governments, private sources, or other sources.

This bill sets up the accounts. A separate bill, SB500 handles the appropriations for the accounts.

How SB7 Will Help Flood Mitigation

Still, if funded, the Texas Infrastructure Resilience Fund, will provide a wonderful vehicle to help jumpstart critical flood mitigation projects. It provides low- or no-cost LOANS, to help local governments get matching funds to:

  • Study flood problems
  • Design solutions
  • Fund construction.

Why SB7 Is Necessary

These loans can be used to help local governments bypass the begging phase of flood mitigation where they look for grants to fund grant writers or study problems. Example: It took almost 18 months after Harvey for Montgomery County, the City of Houston, Harris County and the SJRA to come up with a local match and get FEMA to cover the rest of a $2 million San Jacinto River Basin Study. That study will that take another 18 months to complete.

SB7 could have saved half that time. SB7 deserves the support of all Texans who would like to see flood mitigation efforts accelerated.

To review the status of other legislation affecting the Lake Houston area, check the Legislation page of this website.

Posted by Bob Rehak on March 21, 2019

569 Days since Hurricane Harvey