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Featured, from left: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; and Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernández, MD, Chief Medical Compliance Officer, DHR Health. The South Texas officials were on hand for the ribbon-cutting, held on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, of the Pharr Public Safety Communications Building.

Photograph By ALMA URIBE

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Rep. Guerra to endorse Proposition 8, the $793 million Flood Infrastructure Fund, during Edinburg City Council meeting on October 15

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

Proposition 8, which would use $793 million in state funds to help communities throughout Texas recover from severe flooding, will be endorsed by Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, on Tuesday, October 15, 2019, when he is scheduled to appear before the Edinburg City Council.

Guerra is set to address the five-member city council, which includes the mayor, shortly after the session, which is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. The city council meeting takes place in the Edinburg City Council Chamber on the first floor of Edinburg City Hall, located at 415 West University Drive.

The House District 41 state lawmaker will talk about the proposed Flood Infrastructure Fund, which would be created if Proposition 8, is approved by Texas voters.

Proposition 8 is one of 10 constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot, for which the election is set for Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

Early voting for the 10 state constitutional amendments begins on Monday, October 21, 2019, and runs through Friday, November 1, 2019.

A constitutional amendment is a change to the Texas constitution. A constitutional amendment is proposed by the Legislature in the form of a joint resolution that must be adopted by both chambers of the legislature by a two-thirds vote and be approved by a majority of the voters to become effective.

House Joint Resolution 4 is the measure approved last spring by the Texas Legislature that resulted in Proposition 8 being included on the statewide ballot.

“The Rio Grande Valley is one of the fastest growing regions in the state because of everything our area has to offer. This growth and development brings with it higher damage costs caused by a major flooding event,” Guerra stated in an editorial he submitted earlier this month to area news media outlets. “In recent years, the Rio Grande Valley has seen flooding that has caused widespread devastation to homes, businesses, public property and infrastructure. It was estimated that the flooding (in the Valley) from June 2018 would cost upwards of $100 million, according to the National Weather Service.”

In addition to Guerra, the entire Valley state legislative delegation – Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, Rep. Alex Domínguez, D-Brownsville, Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City, Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville, Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, and Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco – voted for House Joint Resolution 4 (Proposition 8).

The ballot proposal reads: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”

“Utilizing $793 million from Texas’ economic stabilization fund, or ‘Rainy Day Fund’, in tandem with other provisions voted on by the Legislature, Proposition 8 will allow grants and loans to be awarded to municipalities across the state that suffer from flooding,” Guerra further stated.

Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Orange, is the primary author of House Joint Resolution 4, while Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, is the Senate sponsor of the measure.

The author is the legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author). The Senate allows multiple primary authors for each bill or resolution. The House of Representatives allows only one primary author, the House member whose signature appears on the original measure and on the copies filed with the chief clerk. Both chambers also have coauthors, and the House of Representatives has joint authors.

Serving as a fellow author of House Joint Resolution 4 was Guillén, while Martínez was a coauthor.

A coauthor is legislator authorized by the primary author of a bill or resolution to join in the authorship of the measure. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives allow an unlimited number of coauthors on a bill or resolution. A coauthor must be a member of the chamber in which the bill was filed.

The sponsor – in the case of House Joint Resolution 4 was Creighton – is the legislator who guides a bill through the legislative process after the bill has passed the originating chamber. The sponsor is a member of the opposite chamber of the one in which the bill was filed.

Hinojosa was a cosponsor of House Joint Resolution 4.

A cosponsor is a legislator who joins with the primary sponsor to guide a bill or resolution through the legislative process in the opposite chamber. A cosponsor must be a member of the opposite chamber from the one in which the measure was filed.

(https://tlc.texas.gov/docs/legref/Glossary.pdf)

The House Research Organization, which is the nonpartisan research arm of the Texas House of Representatives, provides the following bill analysis on House Joint Resolution 4 (Proposition 8):

Background

Texas Constitution Art. 8, sec. 6 prohibits the withdrawal of money from the state treasury except in pursuance of a specific appropriation made by law. However, certain special funds in the treasury are held outside general revenue and may spend money without legislative appropriation. For example, Art. 3, sec. 49-d-12 created the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas, controlled by the Texas Water Development Board, as a special fund outside the general revenue fund.

Digest

Proposition 8 would add sec. 49-d-14 to Art. 3 of the Texas Constitution to create the Flood Infrastructure Fund as a special fund in the state treasury outside the general revenue fund. As provided by general law, the fund could be used by the Texas Water Development Board without further appropriation to provide financing for drainage, flood mitigation, or flood control projects, including:

• Planning and design activities;

• Work to obtain related regulatory approval to provide nonstructural and structural flood mitigation and drainage; or 

• Construction of flood mitigation and drainage infrastructure.

Separate accounts could be established in the Flood Infrastructure Fund.

By creating the Flood Infrastructure Fund, Proposition 8 would establish regional planning and coordination on flood mitigation projects to better provide for vital infrastructure in the state. A significant funding source is necessary to ensure cooperation among regions and affected stakeholders and to create a more resilient Texas in preparation for future flood events. 

Along with its enabling legislation, Senate Bill 7 by (Sen. Brandon) Creighton (R-Conroe), the proposition would provide disbursement oversight for the fund. 

Enabling legislation is legislation that provides details describing how a joint resolution would be implemented if the resolution were adopted by voters. Enabling legislation may be passed during the legislative session in which the related joint resolution is considered or during a session after a constitutional amendment is adopted.

Under Senate Bill 7, a local government could access funds only if it had fully cooperated with other entities in the region, held public meetings to accept comments from stakeholders, and completed the project’s technical requirements and compared it to others in the area.

The infrastructure fund created by Proposition 8 and Senate Bill 7 would provide grants or low-cost loans to assist local governments with basic flood project planning, grant applications, and engineering flood mitigation projects that were structural (e.g., levees, dikes, and dams) and nonstructural (e.g., education, mitigation plans, and engineering studies). 

Federal funds are available for flood projects after disastrous events, but counties and cities may not be able to put up the matching funds necessary to access that money. Providing financing options for such projects could give communities the opportunity to overcome cost hurdles and expedite access to necessary funding. 

Proposition 8 would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund outside of the general revenue fund to ensure that money in the fund was available to the Texas Water Development Board for the same purpose in future budget cycles.

Critics say

It is unnecessary to create another special fund in the Constitution through Proposition 8, as sufficient sources of federal, state, and local funds are available to support flood mitigation projects.

Further, Proposition 8 and an appropriation in the supplemental budget contingent on its passage would improperly use the Economic Stabilization Fund (also known as the ‘Rainy Day Fund’) to provide $793 million to the Flood Infrastructure Fund. The Economic Stabilization Fund should be used only for disaster response or relief or for other one-time expenses. Because the infrastructure fund would be an ongoing state program, the money should come from general revenue during the normal budgeting process.

Notes

Proposition 8’s enabling legislation, SB 7 by Creighton, generally took effect on June 13. Certain provisions that would create and regulate the use of the Flood Infrastructure Fund will take effect January 1, 2020, if voters approve the proposed amendment. 

Provisions of Senate Bill 7 that are contingent on voter approval of Proposition 8 state that the Flood Infrastructure Fund consists of legislative appropriations, proceeds from general obligation bonds, dedicated fees, loan repayments, interest, gifts, and money from revenue bonds. TWDB could use the fund only to make certain grants or loans at or below market interest for flood projects. Political subdivisions applying for financial assistance would have to demonstrate that they had met certain application requirements listed in the bill.

An appropriation in the supplemental budget bill, Senate Bill 500 by (Sen. Jane) Nelson (R-Flower Mound), is contingent on the voter approval of Proposition 8. If the proposed amendment is approved, $793 million would be appropriated from the Economic Stabilization Fund to the comptroller in fiscal 2019 for the purpose of immediately depositing the amount to the Flood Infrastructure Fund.

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For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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