SENATE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND HOMELAND SECURITY RELEASES INTERIM REPORT
The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, which considered sixteen interim charges, recently released its interim report. Many of the recommendations are relevant to cities solely because of city officialsí interest in state-level transportation issues. Other recommendations, especially those dealing with disaster response, immigration, and billboards, are directed specifically at cities. The reportís city-related recommendations are as follows:
Disaster Planning and First Response Efforts
- The legislature should adopt measures to improve compliance with evacuation orders, including penalties for knowingly failing to evacuate an area under an evacuation order.
- The legislature should adopt measures to standardize procedures and strengthen the ability to enforce laws regarding reentry into a disaster area.
- The Governorís Division of Emergency Management (GDEM) should continue to refine its evacuation timing and pacing.
- To help defray local government expenditures made at the request of the State of Texas in the course of disaster response, the legislature should appropriate sufficient funds to the Disaster Contingency Fund.
- The legislature should clarify or repeal Section 418.005, Government Code, regarding emergency management training required of appointed public officers.
- The Legislature should direct GDEM, working with public and private sector stakeholders, to establish statewide minimum standards for short and long term shelter operations, including guidance regarding amenities such as cots.
- The Legislature should require backup or alternative power supplies or energy sources capable of operating effectively for at least 90 days post-disaster at infrastructure such as water treatment and distribution facilities.
- The billboard industry should be able to utilize its existing assets to the fullest of its capabilities, by allowing the height of sign structures to be raised in the case of newly-erected sound walls or highway flyovers.
Diversion of Transportation Revenue and Transportation Funding Options
- The committee recommends both reducing diversions and indexing the motor fuels tax as a means to address funding shortfalls.
- The committee recommends indexing the motor fuels tax to the producer price index as a way of keeping even with inflation. This index should be capped at an annual percentage as deemed appropriate by the legislature.
- The committee recommends that on a local level, legislators remain open to considering various ideas that are presented by metropolitan planning organizations and regional mobility authorities to fund necessary improvements to local transit.
- Local police agencies must balance any decision to enforce federal immigration laws with their daily mission of protecting and serving diverse communities, while taking into account limited resources, the complexity of immigration laws, the limitations on authority to enforce, the risk of immigration enforcement activities, and the clear need to foster the trust and cooperation from the public including members of the immigrant community. Any initiative to involve local police agencies in the enforcement of immigration laws should be a local decision.
Other recommendations cover items such as: (1) certain provisions in comprehensive development agreements for toll projects; (2) the status of current and planned toll road projects in Texas; (3) the effectiveness of the Trans-Texas Corridor and its future role in providing additional roads in Texas; (4) emergency radio interoperability; and (5) bridge maintenance. The full text of the report is available online at: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/commit/c640/c640.InterimReport80.pdf.