Sept. 15, 2017

This week's Capitol Roundup :
  • Harvey relief efforts ongoing across southeast Texas
  • Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp set to lead recovery
  • U.S. Supreme Court puts hold on new Texas political maps as it considers Paxton's appeal

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AGC Texas Chapters

Quote of the Week
"Rebuild Texas ahead of schedule, under budget and with a friendly smile of constant consumer service."
-Gov. Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott made the comment last week as he described the role of newly-appointed head of Harvey disaster relief, John Sharp, who will chair the Governor's Commission to Rebuild Texas. 
As Hurricane Harvey's wake remains, state lawmakers and local officials come together to rebuild southeast Texas

Our thoughts and prayers at AGC Texas Building Branch go out to the millions of Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey's disastrous wake. Please click on the following links to discover ways to help via AGC Houston, South Texas AGC, and AGC Southeast Texas

AGC-TBB is also involved with the Texas Building Council, which is coordinating relief efforts with builders, banks, and lenders across the state to provide resources across southeast Texas.

Those affected by Harvey can click here to apply for FEMA disaster relief and click here for tips on how to protect yourself from disaster fraud. 

Here is the latest news about Harvey's impact in Texas:
  • The U.S. Congress voted last Friday to send $15 billion in short-term aid to southeast Texas for hurricane relief, with a more expansive aid package expected to come in the fall. Four members of the Texas delegation in the House voted against the measure because it tied the relief funds to an effort to raise the public debt ceiling. 
  • Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans to appoint John Sharp, chancellor of Texas A&M University and a former longtime elected Democrat, to lead the rebuilding effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Sharp will chair the newly-formed Governor's Commission to Rebuild Texas. Sharp has distributed a six-page white paper to local officials across the region, detailing relief plans across the state. 
  • Gov. Abbott has for now ruled out a special session in Austin to pass Harvey relief legislation. However, the Texas House Urban Affairs Committee met last Thursday to discuss the short-term and long-term needs of people who were displaced from their homes because of the hurricane and storm-related floods.
  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will ask City Council to approve an 8.9 percent hike in the city's tax rate this fall to help Houston flood relief, beginning with a series of public hearings later this month and a formal vote in mid-October. In what would be the first tax rate hike from City Hall in more than two decades, the  average Houston homeowner would pay $118 more in property taxes next year under the proposal.
  • Lt. Gov. Dan patrick and state Sen. Paul Bettencourt are working with U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul to allocate $320 million in federal dollars to build another reservoir to take pressure off two federally owned reservoirs surrounding Houston. McCaul is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
  • Former Shell president Marvin Odum, a Houston native, will lead the city's recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Turner announced last week. Odum will be tasked primarily with coordinating public officials' efforts with those of local businesses and relief-effort groups.
  • The Texas General Land Office, the agency tasked with managing state-owned lands, will oversee short- and long-term housing for Texans displaced by Hurricane Harvey, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday.
Abbott taps John Sharp to lead Harvey rebuilding efforts 

Texas Gov.  Greg Abbott chose  John Sharp, the chancellor of Texas A&M University, to lead the rebuilding effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  Sharp will chair the newly-formed Governor's Commission to Rebuild Texas, Abbott announced last week.

An Abbott spokesman said the commission would focus on rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and government buildings. Part of its work would also involve looking at how to rebuild to prevent damage from hurricanes in the future.

Abbott has said he believes the federal government will need to spend between $150 billion and $180 billion to help Texas recover from Harvey. Sharp's will be tasked with expediting the response and making sure local mayors and county officials get what the resources they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

"We are very cognizant of the fact that this money will come from taxes paid by hardworking Americans and we will treat it with the kind of respect and accountability that they deserve and expect," Sharp said in a statement.

Gov. Greg Abbott (left) and John Sharp
In the 1980's, Sharp was a moderate Democratic state lawmaker serving in both the House and Senate and representing the coastal area of Victoria. He later served  as the state comptroller for eight years and lost a close race for Texas lieutenant  governor against former governor  Rick Perry. Sharp has been chancellor of Texas A&M University System since 2011 when he was appointed by the Board of Regents. 

In addition to Sharp, Abbott's relief commission is expected to draw on the expertise of the state's top emergency management officials. In selecting Sharp to lead the commission, Abbott said he was looking for someone who could work with officials at all levels and possesses deep knowledge of the budget and how state agencies operate. 

"The road to recovery is going to be long, but Texans are a tough breed," Sharp said. "We will rebuild Texas and we will build it even better than it was before."
U.S. Supreme Court stays lower court ruling, putting a hold on new political maps ahead of 2018 elections

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that Texas state officials should hold off on redrawing any of the state's political district maps as the high court examines an appeal from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The two orders issued by the court Tuesday temporarily block two previous lower court rulings that invalidated parts of Texas' state House and congressional maps earlier this year after finding that the maps discriminated against Latino and black voters in the state.

The orders indicate that there is a strong likelihood the maps will remain the same ahead of the 2018 elections. 
With election filing deadlines looming, lawmakers have not yet been called to a special session to make the changes, and it does not seem likely that Gov. Greg Abbott will call them back to Austin. 
Attorney General Ken Paxton

The debacle could create a problem for lawmakers running for office in 2018, who must file for election Nov. 11, with early voting starting next February and primaries in March. In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Paxton said he would prefer the current maps remain in place for the elections this fall. 

Local election officials have said they need clarity on district boundaries by October to meet election guidelines. The state, in its brief filed by Paxton, argues that the lower court could easily implement a remedial map prior to the October deadline.

The violations found earlier this year by the three-judge panel in San Antonio stem from nine different House districts and could affect the configuration of districts in four counties.

The House districts flagged by the court are: 103 (Anchia), 104 (Alonzo), 105 (Anderson), 32 (Hunter), 34 (Herrero), 54 (Cosper), 55 (Shine), 90 (Romero), and 93 (Krause). They span the counties of Dallas, Nueces, Bell, and Tarrant.

The court's decision came a week after the same court also  invalidated two Texas congressional districts - 27  (Farenthold) and 35 ( Doggett) - and ruled that intentional discrimination against voters of color meant those districts needed to be redrawn as well.


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