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Patrick, Straus direct Legislature to research Harvey, Alamo ahead of 2019 session

Straus assigned nearly every House committee at least one issue related to Hurricane Harvey to research in addition to topics normally under their oversight.

Speaker Straus hits the gavel as members vote no on an amendment on Senate Bill 1, the property tax bill, on Aug. 12, 2017.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus charged almost all House committees on Monday to research issues related to Hurricane Harvey recovery in advance of the next legislative session.

The assignments focus largely on the storm's long-term impacts on the state's public services and on preventive measures for future disasters. Straus had previously assigned the House Appropriations, Public Education and Natural Resources committees to research a list of issues concerning hurricane relief on Sept. 14. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had also charged state Senate committees to look into 25 issues related to Harvey recovery on Sept. 28.

Nearly all House committees were charged with at least one issue directly related to the storm and under their purview to research. The House Committee on Agriculture and Livestock, for example, is charged with mitigating damage and assessing possible protective measures against future natural disasters for the state's agriculture. And the House Committee on Land and Resource Management will examine whether local and state zoning rules "provide an adequate balance of disaster preparedness and deference to private property rights."

The committees will report their findings to their respective chambers of the Legislature before the next legislative session begins in January 2019.

“The House will work on a broad range of issues over the next year,” Straus said in a news release. “The work in the months ahead will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used properly, that state agencies are meeting the state’s needs and that our private-sector economy is prepared for continued growth.”

The Harvey-related assignments are among more than 230 issues Straus ordered House committees to research Monday in preparation for the next legislative session.

Patrick also ordered Senate committees to research an additional 81 issues on Monday, including directing the Finance Committee to review funding of the Alamo, which has been at the center of controversy amid Land Commissioner George P. Bush's efforts to restore the landmark. 

"I want to ensure the funds allocated for the Alamo are spent to emphasize the historical impact of that legendary battle on the development of Texas as a nation and as a state," Patrick added.

Bush expressed excitement and gratitude for the attention directed toward the Alamo, saying in a statement to the Tribune on Monday that it will "restore reverence and dignity" to the site of one of the most famous battles in Texas history.

"This was a testament to their dedication to protecting Texas history and encouraging future generations of Texans to remember the sacrifice of the Alamo Defenders who gave their lives for our independence," Bush said in the statement.

Additionally, Patrick created the Select Committee on Employment Practices to "make recommendations on how to best guarantee the integrity of our state's workforce," according to a news release Monday. The state Senate passed a bill last session that would penalize state contractors that do not verify their employees' immigration status through E-Verify. The bill failed to reach Gov. Greg Abbott, but Patrick's new committee will attempt to readdress the bill's objectives.

Straus also announced the creation of the Select Committee on Opioids and Substance Abuse to research the scope and effects of substance abuse in Texas. State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, will chair the committee, and Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, will serve as vice chair.

The new committee on drug abuse is charged with developing "concrete principles and action items to reduce the scourge of opioids" in Texas. In addition to looking at the prevalence of substance abuse, the committee will also assess the currently available options for reducing drug abuse and the challenges of addressing opioid abuse for law enforcement and first responders. It will also investigate drug abuse through state-funded or state-administered programs such as Medicaid.

The committee will continue the substance abuse related work of the Select Committee on Mental Health, which Straus created in November 2015

"Opioid addiction is a national epidemic that has had a devastating impact on many lives," Straus said in the news release. "It’s important that we learn more about the prevalence and impact of opioid addiction and other substance abuse issues in Texas."

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Dan Patrick Joe Straus Texas House of Representatives