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Featured, seated, Lorena González and her husband, Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, who serves on the Financial Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, DC, and standing, Anne Skaria and her husband, Mani Skaria, Ph.D., Founder, President, and CEO, US Citrus, LLC. The South Texas leaders were in McAllen on Monday, May 27, 2019, promoting Persian Lime produced by US Citrus, LLC, which is located in Hargill northeast of Edinburg. (https://uscitrus.com/>products/persian-lime-tree)

Photograph By ISMAEL GARCÍA

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Congressman González secures key language in House Financial Services Committee for a plan to reauthorize National Flood Insurance Program

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen, on Monday, June 17, 2019, announced that he had secured crucial language in H.R. 3167, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Reauthorization Act of 2019, a House Financial Services Committee bill that would reauthorize the NFIP, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for five years.

The bill passed 59 to 0 out of the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

González serves on the Financial Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, DC.

González and Rep. Alexander X. Mooney, R-West Virginia, identified a key >missing piece of the nation’s federal flood program and made it their priority to supply the NFIP with more accurate mapping data standards.

According to Global Public Policy, on June 12, 2018, H.R. 3167 – “the product of lengthy negotiations between Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-California, ) and Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-North Carolina – was approved by a vote of 59-0 and is likely to receive broad support in a vote of the full House,” according to Tyler McIntosh, federal legislative manager for GPP.

Global Public Policy (GPP) is an advocacy group whose mission is to ensure the retail real estate industry is broadly recognized for the integral role it plays in the social, civic and economic vibrancy of communities across the globe. Founded in 1957, GPP has more than 70,000 members.

(https://www.icsc.org)

Waters incorporated their commonsense proposals, which provide affordable premiums for homeowners and reform flood maps, in the final legislation, according to the South Texas congressman.

“We need to warn our citizens that flooding is not just a coastal problem,” González said. “Accurate and complete flood maps are critical to protecting residential and commercial property in Central and South Texas and many other at-risk areas across the country. I thank the committee for their bipartisan support and urge leadership to bring this legislation to the floor and pass this bill so it can be enacted into law.”

Reformed flood mapping will enable the NFIP and FEMA to work together toward new goals that promote national security, infrastructure planning and construction and natural disaster prevention.

“The mapping reforms incorporated into H.R. 3167, the NFIP Reauthorization Act of 2019, are critical to the effectiveness of this program,” González said. “The integrity and timeliness of mapping is critical for the fair and accurate assessment of flood risks, and thus the protection of the public.”

Global Public Policy’s McIntosh agreed with the need for the legislation, but cautioned that there still remains significant work to be completed before it becomes federal law.

The legislation would provide a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP, enable growth of the private flood insurance market, expand and improve flood risk mapping, enhance mitigation and modernize the program – all priorities advocated for by ICSC and industry partners,” McIntosh reported. “The bipartisan deal is a significant accomplishment in the debate over the future of the NFIP, which is operating on its twelfth short-term extension since September 2017 and is set to expire once more on September 30.”

However, the legislation “faces an uncertain fate in the Senate where key senators have already raised concerns about the House bill. There remains widespread disagreement on reforms among the Senate Banking Committee members and they have yet to take any formal action,” McIntosh noted.

Regardless, H.R. 3167, the NFIP Reauthorization Act of 2019, in its current form achieves “all priorities advocated for by ICSC and industry partners,” he added, further explaining that “the legislation would provide a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP, enable growth of the private flood insurance market, expand and improve flood risk mapping, enhance mitigation and modernize the program.”

The bipartisan deal is a significant accomplishment in the debate over the future of the NFIP, which is operating on its twelfth short-term extension since September 2017 and is set to expire once more on September 30, 2019, he added. “It is of primary importance that the NFIP not expire at the end of the fiscal year. An NFIP lapse would create uncertainty in real estate markets and jeopardize major financial transactions.”

The leaders of two other of the numerous national organizations in favor of H.R. 3167, the NFIP Reauthorization Act of 2019, also expressed their support for the proposed federal policy.

The National Society of Professional Surveyors highly commends Reps. González and Mooney for their leadership on the mapping reforms included in the Act,” said Pat Smith, RPLS, Chairman of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) Government Affairs Committee, Senior Vice President of SAM, LLC, a national surveying and geospatial services firm headquartered in Austin, Texas.

“The mapping reforms in the NFIP Reauthorization Act recognize professional services and technology applications that will improve the quality, accuracy, and utility of FEMA flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs),” added John Palatiello, Founder of U.S. GEO. “The initiatives Representatives González and Mooney provided in this legislation will provide a positive return on investment, save tax dollars, and improve the program for the benefit of taxpayers and flood insurance ratepayers.”

González said he has long urged his colleagues to recognize the need for improved emergency response updates and preparedness for the NFIP. The torrential hurricane season of 2017 that affected regions in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the June 2018 flooding in South Texas proved that the flood mapping reforms like those in H.R. 3167 will enable more informed natural disaster planning.

For more information on H.R 3167, visit Congress.gov.

CONGRESSMAN CUELLAR ANNOUNCES MORE THAN $44 MILLION IN FEDERAL EDUCATION FUNDS FOR DISADVANTAGED IN HIDALO AND STARR COUNTIES

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, announced $33,397,691 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education for Mission, La Joya, and Sharyland Independent School Districts, and $10,872,181 in federal funds, also from the U.S. Department of Education for Rio Grande City, Roma and San Isidro Independent School Districts.

The federal funds are authorized under Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, provide financial assistance to local education agencies with high numbers of children from low-income families. These funds assist schools in ensuring that all children meet state academic standards.

“As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am pleased to announce this grant for our local school districts,” said Cuellar, whose congressional district includes Starr County and western Hidalgo County. “We must invest in the educational needs and interest of Texas student because they are our most important asset for the country’s future. I will continue to support our school systems by providing them the necessary resources, so they can deliver high quality education in Texas classrooms.”

The funds were awarded accordingly:

La Joya Independent School District – $21,167,319;
Mission Consolidated Independent School District – $9,195,770;
Rio Grande City Consolidated Independent School District – $6,110,570;
Sharyland Independent School District – $3,034,602;
Roma Independent School District – $4,651,810; and
San Isidro Independent School District – $109,801.

As a member of the Appropriations committee, Cuellar said he helped secure $16.9 billion for Title I Grants to local education agencies, an increase of $1 billion over the 2019 enacted level and the President’s budget request. ?

$400,000 FEDERAL MEDICAL GRANT AWARDED FOR PRIMARY CARE TRAINING AND ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY

On Monday, June 17, 2019, González announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) a $400,000 grant for their Primary Care Training and Enhancement (PCTE) Program.

“All Central and South Texans deserve access to affordable, quality healthcare,” said González. “These funds will allow UTRGV to continue educating and training the next generation of medical professionals that will provide top notch, comprehensive care in our region.”

“We are grateful to Congressman Vicente González for his unwavering support of the UTRGV School of Medicine and the Department of Health and Human Services for awarding this grant,” said John H. Krouse, Executive Vice President for the Division of Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine. “This funding will allow us to fulfill our promise to train health care providers who will serve the Rio Grande Valley and increase access to health care for residents of this region.”

The PCTE Program seeks to support enhanced training for future and current primary care practitioners, strengthen the primary care workforce and promote primary care practice, particularly in underserved and rural areas.

González said he remains committed to working in a bipartisan way to develop innovative ideas to lower health care costs, providing increased access to affordable, quality health care and securing funding for medical research and training for the people of Central and South Texas.

PHARMACY BENEFIT MANAGER ACCOUNTABILITY STUDY ACT OF 2019 INTRODUCED BY GONZÁLEZ, MARSHALL, WELCH AND CARTER

González, Congressman Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, Congressman Peter Welch, D-Vermont, and Congressman Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, on Thursday June 13, 2019, introduced H.R. 3223, the Pharmacy Benefit Manger Accountability Study Act of 2019.

This bipartisan bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on the role pharmaceutical benefit managers play in the pharmaceutical supply chain and serves as a companion to existing Senate efforts.

This study would equip lawmakers to provide realistic recommendations for legislative action to lower the cost of prescription drugs for consumers and payers, improve the efficiency of the pharmaceutical supply chain by lowering intermediary costs, increase competition and provide transparency in pharmacy benefit management.

“From day one, I promised South Texans I would take action to lower the price of prescription drugs and provide greater transparency in the drug supply chain,” said González. “This bipartisan legislation will give us greater insight on how to more effectively conduct oversight and hold all major healthcare industry stakeholders accountable while lowering the prices of prescription drugs so no person is forced to choose between putting food on the table, paying their bills or buying necessary medications.”

The bill additionally would direct the GAO to narrow its scope to look at Federal Exchange data and amend the parameters of the study to provide a three-year timeline in order to include adequate time to ensure the GAO can provide accurate qualitative and quantitative date.

For information on the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Accountability Study Act, please visit Congress.gov.

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Jason Johnson, Charlotte Laracy, and Leslie Martínez contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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