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Texas House Speaker Joe Straus ordered House committees Thursday to research a list of issues related to Hurricane Harvey so lawmakers could be prepared to tackle them during the next legislative session.
The Legislature meets every two years for 140 days and isn't scheduled to meet again until 2019. In the periods in between sessions, the House speaker and lieutenant governor typically direct committees of the House and Senate, respectively, to research a list of policy issues.
"We know that this is not going to be a normal legislative interim," Straus said in a statement. "Hurricane Harvey has devastated our state and upended the lives of millions of Texans. While the state is taking a number of immediate actions to help Texans begin to recover, and will continue to do so, the Legislature will have a substantial role to play in both the recovery process and in preparation for future storms.”
Straus prioritized public education in his directions to representatives. He asked the Public Education Committee to:
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- Determine the financial costs of damage to schools from Harvey and recommend changes such as classroom count adjustments
- Study the educational opportunities and challenges for students who were displaced by the storm, and how to improve the process by which school districts enroll such students
- Find solutions to prevent either students or districts from being punished by the state's accountability system due to Harvey
Straus also charged the House Appropriations Committee — the chamber's budget writers — to examine the allocation of federal funds to Harvey recovery efforts and identify ways in which funding could be implemented to reduce to damage of future natural disasters.
And the Natural Resources Committee will also be exploring the prospect of future storms. Straus instructed the committee to look at how to reduce the impact of future large storms including the role of development and infrastructure in flood prevention.