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Disaster Recovery Proposal Revived in Flooding Aftermath

Surrounded by the aftermath of recent flooding, the Texas Senate has revived a measure that would make it easier for local officials to plan ahead for rebuilding after disasters.

A destroyed bridge over the Blanco River near Fischer Store Road near Wimberley, Texas, is shown on May 27, 2015.

A disaster relief proposal that has taken on new significance following recent deadly flooding across Texas won a second life Wednesday after the Senate added to it another piece of legislation. 

By a voice vote, the upper chamber approved an amendment to House Bill 3474 that would let Texas cities and towns more proactively plan for rebuilding homes after natural disasters. The legislative add-on echoes Senate Bill 1376, which died Tuesday after failing to meet a key midnight deadline in the House.

The proposal, spearheaded by Brownsville Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., would allow local governments to come up with their own plans for rebuilding with the help of housing experts at Texas A&M University. Cities and towns would then route their plans to Gov. Greg Abbott's office, which would work to secure advance approval from disaster relief officials at the federal level. 

The process would dramatically speed up the time it takes for communities to rebuild, potentially shaving off several months of waiting time, according to housing advocates. They have argued the legislation is more important than ever given the flooding that has devastated some parts of Texas over the past several days, leading Abbott to declare states of disaster in dozens of counties.

There is one notable difference between SB 1376 and the amendment. SB 1376 designated the General Land Office as the middleman between local governments and the governor's office, while the amendment lets Abbott pick which state agency serves as the go-between. 

The Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to HB 3474, sending it back to the House. It is unclear whether the governor will sign the bill, which broadly deals with county-level issues. 

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