Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2618
By: Gray
Public Safety


In 2000, there were 96 fatalities, 146 injuries, and $925 million in
property and crop damage in Texas due to severe weather.  There have been
51 major natural disasters declared in Texas between 1972 and 2000, more
than any other state.  Declared disasters are eligible for federal
assistance.  However, many other disasters occur in Texas that do not
qualify for federal aid, and the costs of these disasters are borne by
local governments and individuals.  In many of these undeclared disasters,
the governor does not have the authority to make grants to local government
and individuals.  House Bill 2618 expands the governor's authority to make
grants to local governments and individuals during a disaster and creates
the disaster management fund. 


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does
not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state
officer, department, agency, or institution. 


House Bill 2618 amends the Government Code relating to provisions in the
Texas Disaster Act of 1975. The bill authorizes the governor to request
federal assistance to save lives, protect property, preserve the public
health and safety, lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe, supplement
the efforts of available resources of the state, the affected local
government, and organized volunteer groups, and to provide compensation for
uninsured disaster-related losses for situations that the governor
determines are beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected
political subdivision.  The bill removes provisions relating to the
authority of the governor to determine the amount needed by a local
government to restore its governmental functions before applying to the
federal government for assistance and authorizing the governor to recommend
to the federal government cancellation of all or part of repayment under
certain conditions (Sec. 418.021).  The bill authorizes the governor to
make grants to meet disaster-related necessary expenses or other serious
needs of individuals or families adversely affected by a disaster that is
not declared by the president of the United States or a disaster that is
declared by the president of the United States but in which individual or
family assistance is not granted (undeclared disaster) and in which the
governor determines that disaster relief will not be sufficient to address
serious needs of the victims of the disaster.  The bill limits such grants
to financial assistance for housing repairs, repair or replacement of
personal property, transportation expenses, and funeral, dental, medical,
and other analogous expenses considered necessary to meet a serious need,
and limits the amount of a grant to $5,000 per individual or family (Sec.

In an undeclared disaster, the bill authorizes the governor to provide
funds to a political subdivision for expenses incurred in the clearance,
removal, and disposal of debris and, if no other means of financial
assistance are available, for expenses incurred for the repair or
replacement of a damaged highway or street or water control structure
(Secs. 418.023 and 418.0231).  In an undeclared disaster or a disaster that
is declared but in which hazard mitigation assistance is not granted, the
bill authorizes the governor to provide funds not to exceed 50 percent of
the cost of hazard mitigation measures that are determined by the governor
to be cost-effective, and substantially reduce the risk of future damage,
loss, or suffering in an area  affected by the disaster (Sec. 418.0232). 

The bill abolishes the disaster contingency fund and creates the disaster
management fund (fund) (Sec. 418.073 and SECTION 9).  The bill provides
that the fund is a trust fund established in and required to be
administered by the Texas Treasury Safekeeping Trust Company.  The bill
authorizes the governor to make funds available from the fund to provide
money for emergency management and disaster relief programs where the costs
exceed the funds regularly appropriated to state and local agencies (Sec.
418.073).  The bill sets forth limits on the use of the fund for
administrative expenses, emergency management training costs, and the
implementation of statewide notification systems or services.  The bill
authorizes the governor to use money in the fund for expenses incurred in
implementation of mutual aid assistance (Sec. 418.0731). 


On passage, or if the Act does not receive the necessary vote, the Act
takes effect September 1, 2001.