2011 Texas Legislative Session – February 26th

26 02 2011

Below you will find a listing of Emergency Management related bills as of February 26, 2011.   

The 82nd Texas Legislature will be in session 140 days.  The first day of the session was Tuesday, January 11, 2011 and the last day of the session is Monday, May 30, 2011.  The last day to file regular bills be Friday, March 11, 2011.  Governor Perry has until June 19th to review bills passed by the State Legislature.  He can sign a bill to authorize new law, or he can let a bill become law without signing, or he can veto a bill.

HB 1  – (Pitts) Relating to General Appropriations.  Among other things, this bill would reduce expenditures for 9-1-1 Network by 27%; reduce by 48% disaster funding to state and local agencies when the Governor finds the demands on funds regularly appropriated are insufficient to respond to a particular disaster; reduce by Criminal Justice grants by 55%, impacting the number of grants awarded from an estimated 900 in FY 2011 to approximately 520 each fiscal year of the 2012-13 biennium; and eliminate funding for the Flood Control Dam Grant Program which provides operations and maintenance, structural repair, and rehabilitation needs to flood control dams across the State.

HB 614   –  (Hopson)  Relating to allowing health care providers to provide services across state lines in catastrophic circumstances

HB 803 – (Bonnen) Relating to the penalty for failure to make a timely installment payment of ad valorem taxes on property in a disaster area.  SB 432 is identical

HB 805 – (Callegari) Relating the requirement that certain water service providers ensure emergency operations during an extended power outage

HB 837 – (Taylor, Van) Relating to the authority of peace officers to request thumbprints during motor vehicle stops

HB 993 – (Rodriguez, E.)  Relating to the closure of a road or highway by certain firefighters

HB 1030 – (Miller) Relating to the powers and duties of certain emergency services districts

HB 1075 – (Anderson) Relating to the consolidation of certain alert system into a single statewide alert system and to the addition of other factors that will prompt an alert under the consolidated system

HB 1092 – (Christian)  Relating to the exemption from certain construction requirements for volunteer fire departments in certain counties

HB 1125 – (Burnam)  Relating to a study regarding the odorization of natural gas transported in gathering and transmission lines located in populated areas

HB 1147 – (Smith) Relating to notice by a governmental entity regarding certain geospatial data products.  SB 442 is identical

HB 1174 – (Workman) Relating to the expiration of a county burn ban

HB 1217 – (Miles)  Relating to a residential tenant’s right to vacate a dwelling and avoid liability for rent following the declaration of a state of disaster; providing a civil penalty

HB 1319 – (Laubenberg) Relating to the calculation and reporting of water usage and conservation by municipalities and water utilities

HB 1354 – (Davis, S.)  Relating to liability of certain certified municipal inspector for services rendered during an emergency or disaster

HB 1379 – (Anchia)  Relating to the purchasing of a firearm from the county by an honorably retired law enforcement officer

HB 1476  –  (Riddle)  Relating to the grounds for revocation of an emergency medical services personnel certification

HB 1561  –  (Orr)  Relating to the authority of a municipality to implement a photographic traffic signal enforcement system and impose civil penalties

HB 1619 – (Orr)  Relating to emergency services districts

HB 1711 – (Davis, John)  Relating to disaster remediation contracts; providing penalties

HB 1750 – (Darby)  Relating to the authority of the Texas Department of Transportation to lease and contract for the operation of rolling stock during certain emergencies

HB 1765 – (Miller, Sid)  Relating to an emergency public service messaging network.  Identical to SB 971

HB 1791 – (Kleinschmidt)  Relating to emergency services districts

HB 1861 – (Anchia)  Relating to the continuation and functions of the Commission on State Emergency Communications

SB 106 – (Davis, Wendy)  Relating to condemnation of municipal property for, and municipal regulation of, pipeline operations

SB 389 – (Williams)  Relating to emergency preparedness during an extended power outage of a water service provider with at lease 250 connections

SB 418   –   (Williams)  Relating to the carrying of concealed handguns by certain persons attending a school board meeting

SB 432   –   (Jackson)  Relating to the penalty for failure to make a timely installment payment of ad valorem taxes on property in a disaster area.  HB 803 is identical.

SB 617  –  (Rodriguez)  Relating a manifest system to record the transportation of certain liquid wastes

SB 917 – (Wentworth)  Relating to emergency service districts

SB 969 – (Nelson)  Relating to the establishment of the Public Health Funding and Policy Advisory Committee with the Department of State Health Services

For a PDF listing the above bills:  billreport 2-26-11

If you know of other bills that I may have missed, please leave me a comment and let me know!  Thanks to those of you who have contacted me and made suggestions.

Also, please consider subscribing to this blog to receive the legislative information directly.

Advertisements




2011 Texas Legislative Session – February 22nd

22 02 2011

Below you will find a listing of Emergency Management related bills as of February 22, 2011.  As you will note, I have included some summary information for HB 1, the General Appropriations Bill. 

HB 1  – (Pitts) Relating to General Appropriations.  Among other things, this bill would reduce expenditures for 9-1-1 Network by 27%; reduce by 48% disaster funding to state and local agencies when the Governor finds the demands on funds regularly appropriated are insufficient to respond to a particular disaster; reduce by Criminal Justice grants by 55%, impacting the number of grants awarded from an estimated 900 in FY 2011 to approximately 520 each fiscal year of the 2012-13 biennium; and eliminate funding for the Flood Control Dam Grant Program which provides operations and maintenance, structural repair, and rehabilitiation needs to flood control dams across the State.

HB 614   –  (Hopson)  Relating to allowing health care providers to provide services across state lines in catastrophic circumstances

HB 803 – (Bonnen) Relating to the penalty for failure to make a timely installment payment of ad valorem taxes on property in a disaster area.  SB 432 is identical.

HB 805 – (Callegari) Relating the requirement that certain water service providers ensure emergency operations during an extended power outage

HB 837 – (Taylor, Van) Relating to the authority of peace officers to request thumbprints during motor vehicle stops

HB 993 – (Rodriguez, E.)  Relating to the closure of a road or highway by certain firefighters

HB 1030 – (Miller) Relating to the powers and duties of certain emergency services districts

HB 1075 – (Anderson) Relating to the consolidation of certain alert system into a single statewide alert system and to the addition of other factors that will prompt an alert under the consolidated system

HB 1092 – (Christian) Relating to the exemption from certain construction requirements for volunteer fire departments in certain counties

HB 1147 – (Smith) Relating to notice by a governmental entity regarding certain geospatial data products.  SB 442 is identical.

HB 1174 – (Workman) Relating to the expiration of a county burn ban

HB 1217 – (Miles)  Relating to a residential tenant’s right to vacate a dwelling and avoid liability for rent following the declaration of a state of disaster; providing a civil penalty

HB 1319 – (Laubenberg) Relating to the calculation and reporting of water usage and conservation by municipalities and water utilities

HB 1354 – (Davis, S.)  Relating to liability of certain certified municipal inspector for services rendered during an emergency or disaster

HB 1476  –  (Riddle)  Relating to the grounds for revocation of an emergency medical services personnel certification

HB 1561  –  (Orr)  Relating to the authority of a municipality to implement a photographic traffic signal enforcement system and impose civil penalties

SB 389 – (Williams)  Relating to emergency preparedness during an extended power outage of a water service provider with at lease 250 connections

SB 418   –   (Williams)  Relating to the carrying of concealed handguns by certain persons attending a school board meeting

SB 432   –   (Jackson)  Relating to the penalty for failure to make a timely installment payment of ad valorem taxes on property in a disaster area.  HB 803 is identical.

SB 617  –  (Rodriguez)  Relating a manifest system to record the transportation of certain liquid wastes

SB 648  – (Whitmire)  Relating to the continuation and functions of the Commission on State Emergency Communications.

For a PDF listing the above bills:   billreport 2-22-11

If you know of other bills that I may have missed, please leave me a comment and let me know!  Thanks to those of you who have contacted me and made suggestions.

Also, please consider subscribing to this blog to receive the legislative information directly.





Grass Fires Pose Threat Across State of Texas

19 02 2011

Rick Perry, Governor of the State of Texas, issued an Emergency Disaster Proclamation on December 21, 2010, as extreme fire hazard posed a threat of imminent disaster in specified counties in Texas.  The disaster proclamation was subsequently renewed on January 19, 2011.   Weather and fuel indices indicate that the 2011 Winter Fire Season is moving into a more active phase.  After a short lull in activity during January due to the Arctic Oscillation, La Nina conditions are now returning to the state and expected to dominate the weather pattern into April.  This increases the potential for large and destructive wildfire occurrence over the state, and represents a serious threat to citizen safety.  The primary causes for this increased threat are:

  • Existing and continued drought
  • Winter winds due to progressive fronts
  • Southern Plains Wildfire Outbreak
  • Above normal fuels (grass and brush)
  • Increasing fire activity, size and risk

During the last seven days alone, Texas Forest Service has responded to 47 fires that covered more than 30,000 acres. On Thursday, Feb. 17, a 1,044-acre fire ripped through Tom Green County in West Texas.  Based on current and forecast conditions, state and national fire analysts are expecting significant fire risk with the potential for large, damaging fires to continue and escalate through March and into April.  Though the major threat for wildfires and grass fires is in North and West Texas at this time, Fort Bend County and surrounding counties are still at risk from fast spreading grass fires. 

On February 16th, the State of Texas State Operations Center (SOC) received a report of a 300 acre fire in Wharton County. The fire was contained. The fire was a controlled burn of rubbish, by the property owner, that spread out of control. Several outbuildings were threatened and saved. There were no reports of injuries or fatalities. El Campo, Louise and Danevang Volunteer Fire Departments responded.

As reported by KHOU.com on February 18, 2011, fast-moving flames burned more than 100 acres Thursday in the Orchard area of Fort Bend County.  Firefighters chased down the blaze as it spread over a two-to-three-mile stretch of land.  They said they believe sparks from a train started the fire.  There were no injuries reported.  Click here for Video of Orchard Grass Fire.

Also on February 18th, the SOC received a report of a fire in Brazoria County.  The fire occurred on State Highway 35 at Farm to Market Road (FM) 1459 near FM 1301.  The fire was contained, but, for a period of time, SH 35 at FM 1459 was closed due to heavy smoke in the area.

Wharton County currently has a Burn Ban in effect.  No such ban is in effect in Fort Bend County at this time, but the County’s Fire Marshal’s Office is keeping a keen eye on the situation.  If dry weather continues and the risk of grass fires increases, the County Fire Marshal will recommend the implementation of a Burn Ban to the Commissioners Court.





Respiratory Protection of Healthcare Workers

19 02 2011

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Health Affairs notified the Emergency Management and Response–Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) produced a new training video for healthcare employers and workers explaining the proper use of respirators and the procedures to follow to assure respirators protect workers from airborne hazards in healthcare settings.

 The 33-minute video explains the major components of a respiratory protection program including fit-testing, medical evaluations, training, and maintenance.  The video also discusses the difference between respirators and surgical masks, features a segment on common respiratory hazards found in healthcare settings, and demonstrates how respirator use helps protect workers from exposure to airborne chemicals.

See here for another link to the OSHA training video.





Fort Bend County Growing Fast

18 02 2011

As reported by the Fort Bend Now, February 18, 2011, “the U.S. Census Bureau has released preliminary reports naming Fort Bend County the second fastest growing county in Texas, moving up a spot from the 2000 Census where it ranked third. 

The county experienced 65.1 percent growth in 10 years and has an estimated population of 585,375.  Fort Bend remains the 10th largest county in the state with an annual average population increase of 23,000 people. It is also the fastest growing county in the Greater Houston area.”

The county is very diverse.  As reported in the Houston Chronicle by Jeannie Kever, February 18, 2011, Fort Bend County “has been a majority-minority county for years.   

“I think it’s one of our greatest assets,” said County Judge Robert Hebert.

Latinos now make up 23.7 percent of Fort Bend County’s population, compared with 36.2 percent Anglo and 21.1 percent African-American. Asians account for 17 percent of the county’s population.  Hebert predicted that Fort Bend County could reach one million residents by the 2020 Census.





2011 Texas Legislative Session – February 17th

17 02 2011

Lots of activity in Austin; I have included some newly filed bills below.  Below you will find a listing of Emergency Management related bills as of February 17, 2011:

HB 614   –  (Hopson)  Relating to allowing health care providers to provide services across state lines in catastrophic circumstances

HB 805 – (Callegari) Relating the requirement that certain water service providers ensure emergency operations during an extended power outage

HB 993 – (Rodriguez, E.)  Relating to the closure of a road or highway by certain firefighters

HB 1030 – (Miller) Relating to the powers and duties of certain emergency services districts

HB 1075 – (Anderson) Relating to the consolidation of certain alert system into a single statewide alert system and to the addition of other factors that will prompt an alert under the consolidated system

HB 1092 – (Christian) Relating to the exemption from certain construction requirements for volunteer fire departments in certain counties

HB 1147 – (Smith) Relating to notice by a governmental entity regarding certain geospatial data products

HB 1174 – (Workman) Relating to the expiration of a county burn ban

HB 1217 – (Miles)  Relating to a residential tenant’s right to vacate a dwelling and avoid liability for rent following the declaration of a state of disaster; providing a civil penalty

HB 1319 – (Laubenberg) Relating to the calculation and reporting of water usage and conservation by municipalities and water utilities

HB 1354 – (Davis, S.)  Relating to liability of certain certified municipal inspector for services rendered during an emergency or disaster

SB 389 – (Williams) Relating to emergency preparedness during an extended power outage of a water service provider with at lease 250 connections

SB 418   –   (Williams)  Relating to the carrying of concealed handguns by certain persons attending a school board meeting

SB 432   –   (Jackson)  Relating to the penalty for failure to make a timely installment payment of ad valorem taxes on property in a disaster area

SB 617 – (Rodriguez) Relating a manifest system to record the transportation of certain liquid wastes

For a PDF listing the above bills:   billreport 2-17-11

If you know of other bills that I may have missed, please leave me a comment and let me know!  Thanks to those of you who have contacted me and made suggestions.

Also, please consider subscribing to this blog to receive the legislative information directly.





Texas Electricity System Unprepared for Cold, Senators Told

16 02 2011

As a follow-up to my blog entry yesterday, below please find today’s article from Laylan Copelin, Austin American-Statesman.  This article was last updated at 7:21 am, Wednesday, February 16, 2011.  The article reviews what took place at yesterday’s hearing  where lawmakers questioned electricity industry leaders about the rolling blackouts which occurred in Texas earlier this month.

State regulators tried to assure Texas senators Tuesday that they have the necessary authority to fix the problems that led to the Feb. 2 rolling blackouts, but some lawmakers remained skeptical.  Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said he wouldn’t want to rush to judgment after one hearing, but he said rolling blackouts are not acceptable.

“We had failures that in some instances were avoidable,” Watson said at a state Senate hearing. “It is unacceptable to have a system that is unprepared.”

By all accounts, the Texas electricity industry was not fully prepared for the severity of the Feb. 2 winter storm that crippled 82 of the state’s 550 generating units.

The daylong hearing in front of two Senate committees was the first time that all the players in the outages — regulators, power company executives, utility representatives and natural gas operators — were in the same room to tell the public what happened and why.

The picture that emerged was that the 82 plants —including some of the newest units run by the biggest power companies — could not handle the cold weather. The situation was worsened by an ineffective communications system among the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, regulators and utilities, leaving thousands of Texans steaming as rolling blackouts hit their neighborhoods with little or no notice.

Trip Doggett, CEO of ERCOT, testified that the operators of the state’s electric grid “averted what could have been a major disaster” by following their emergency plans, including ordering rolling outages.  He blamed inadequate winterization of equipment and poor communication between officials and the public.

Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, said his agency has a rule requiring power generators to submit weatherization plans but said it is reviewing the need to update the plans.

Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, asked Smitherman how the public and lawmakers would know that weatherization measures would improve, given that the plans are confidential because of competitive and national security reasons.

“I want confidence that you are making every effort,” he said. “Who’s going to be sure everything is being done?”

As rising demand outstripped falling power availability, the wholesale price of electricity skyrocketed from about $50 a megawatt-hour to $3,000 on the open market.  Smitherman said he saw no signs of market manipulation of the situation. But he stressed that the PUC has ordered a full investigation by the state’s independent energy market monitor to confirm that initial assessment.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said she wanted data to show that market manipulation didn’t occur: “We need to be sure someone wasn’t withholding power.”

As for communication, the rolling blackouts that started before 6 a.m. Feb. 2 caught officials off-guard.  Smitherman first got word of the situation in a 3:21 a.m. e-mail he received on his phone that he did not read at the time. Doggett said he got the first phone call at 6 a.m., while he was in the shower.  In the hour before Doggett was alerted, ERCOT operators had deployed reserve generation, issued an energy watch and begun asking utilities to cut their power demand. But the grid quickly lost more than 8,000 megawatts of generation as demand climbed.

Doggett said ERCOT already has automated its alert system to speed the flow of information. An alert from an ERCOT shift supervisor now will automatically go to the Department of Public Safety’s State Operations Center, which will contact police, firefighters and other first responders.  The alert also will go to local electric transmission operators as well as to Doggett and Smitherman.

With prodding from Watson, ERCOT released a partial list of the plants that went down. It included 22 units run by Calpine and 11 by Luminant — two of the state’s biggest power companies.  Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, asked why the cold weather affected some of Luminant’s new generators.

“I would be ready to file a lawsuit against whoever engineered a plant that goes down the first time it’s 20 degrees,” Jackson said.

Luminant CEO David Campbell said operators learn about a plant’s special needs by going through a storm.

“We thought we had taken the steps to make it through the night.” Campbell said. “We’ll learn from this.”

Several Central Texas plants went down, at least briefly, or did not start because of the weather or unrelated mechanical reasons. The list included units at Austin Energy’s Decker Creek Power Station and units run by the Lower Colorado River Authority.

NRG Energy, which provides power to its retail outlets, Reliant Energy and Green Mountain Energy Co., had few problems with its plants. “We just spent a lot of time to be sure they are ready for winter,” said John Ragan, the company’s regional president.

Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, noted that NRG also started up more generators than it thought it would need, in case of an emergency.

“We potentially could have lost money,” Ragan said. “It was worth it so we could cover our obligations.”

“You basically gambled some of the company’s money to be sure people didn’t run out of power,” Fraser said. “We salute you.”

Doggett said there were isolated examples of utilities not having enough natural gas to generate electricity, but he said that was a minor factor.

He said the bigger problem was that in some instances, electricity generators cut off power to gas production operations because they didn’t know where the operations were located. Doggett said ERCOT and the utilities should locate production facilities so they can be exempt from future blackouts.

The hearing — a joint effort by Fraser’s Natural Resource Committee and the Business and Commerce Committee — ended without agreement on whether lawmakers should do anything to ensure that fixes to the system are made.  With both the PUC and ERCOT under Sunset review, which requires the Legislature to authorize their continued existence, lawmakers will have ample opportunity to address the issues.