Tomorrow is Election Day / Important Houston Chronicle Article / RECAP: May 15th Opioid and Substance Abuse Hearing / Texas House Democratic Caucus on Santa Fe High School Tragedy

Tomorrow is Election Day

Election Day for the Primary Runoff Election in Texas is TOMORROW, Tuesday, May 22nd. Click here to find your polling location. Remember to bring a valid form of ID with you to the polls. Click here for a list of approved forms of ID. Even if you didn’t vote in the initial primary, you can vote in the primary runoff election.

Election Day Hours
Tuesday, May 22nd | 7am-7pm

Please read below for my list of people I’m endorsing for the Democratic Primary Runoff Election.

SHARON M. BURNEY for Justice of the Peace
Precinct 7, Place 2

I support Sharon  M. Burney for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 7, Place 2. She served in Education for 24 years at HISD, and co-created and administrated the Lighted Schoolhouse, a program for homeless and high-risk youth. Ms. Burney is also endorsed by the:

  • The Texas Coalition of Black Democrats – Harris County
  • The Harris County Tejano Democrats
  • The Communications Workers Union
  • The Houston Federation of Teachers
  • State Representatives Alma Allen and Shawn Thierry
  • The AFL-CIO
  • Former Houston Mayor Lee P. Brown
  • Precinct 7 Constable May Walker
  • Community Leader Deloyd Parker
  • Business Leader Alan Helfman
  • Former Police Chief and City Council Member C.O. Bradford
  • Pretta VanDible Stallworth, Ed.D., Vice Chair of HCC Trustees, District 9
  • Carolyn Shabazz, Ed.D., Chair of HCC Trustees, District 4

Governor
Andrew White
I have known Andrew and his family for decades, and I can tell you that he is a natural leader, a fighter and someone who knows how to get things done. The Texas education system is in bad shape, and we need a governor who is committed to fixing it. Andrew’s dad, former Governor Mark White, worked tirelessly on improving our schools, and that’s the kind of spirit we need back in the Governor’s Mansion.

Please join me in supporting Andrew tomorrow. It’s going to take all of us to fight the extremism in Austin, and we would be well-served with Andrew as our Governor. Click here if you would like more information about Andrew’s vision for Texas.


Texas Congressional District 7
Lizzy Fletcher

Texas State Senate – District 17
Fran Watson


Below is a front page article from last Friday’s Houston Chronicle that I was interviewed for. You can read below or click here.               

Houston-area leaders seek ways to stem investor buyouts of flooded homes

By David Hunn | May 17, 2018 | Updated: May 18, 2018 4:25am

Local, state and federal officials, frustrated by an influx of investors buying flooded homes and lengthy delays in disaster prevention funding, are working to overhaul the country’s buyout program, hoping to speed up sales that can now take years to complete.

So far, they lament, none of the $10 billion approved by Congress for long-term flood recovery in Texas has made it to local governments, leaving homeowners in a lurch and neighborhoods open to investor speculation.

Leaders, deeply concerned that they are losing buyout opportunities to such investors, have even started to talk about more punitive measures: FEMA chiefs have discussed canceling flood insurance policies for homes that have suffered multiple floods, and Harris County Flood Control officials have started talking about using eminent domain to forcibly remove homeowners from those houses.

“At what point is allowing this program to be voluntary still a benefit to everyone, to the community, and to the owners living there?” asked James Wade, head of the Harris County Flood Control buyout program. “These are homes at such high risk of flooding. People are in harm’s way.”

State legislators, flood control leaders and even the head of the taxpayer-funded National Flood Insurance Program advocated this week for a stronger, more nimble buyout program. A Houston Chronicle story earlier this month revealed that investors large and small are buying thousands of Harvey-flooded properties, transforming some Houston neighborhoods into block after block of rentals, interrupting county plans to buy out flood-prone properties and leaning on the flood insurance program to protect them from future floods.

“It’s very disturbing,” said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democrat who represents central and southeast Houston. “The money needs to come faster. Everything is too slow.”
No plans from city, county

Officials view buyouts as a key part of a successful flood control program. After purchase, local governments typically bulldoze the home, removing it permanently from the flood plain.

Such a move has multiple benefits: The green space can again absorb water, or even become a detention basin. It can be used for public good, such as a park or ballfield. And, since most homes in the flood plain are insured by the National Flood Insurance Program, buyouts end the cycle of repetitive insurance payments and save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars per house.

Harris County has run a buyout program for 30 years. It focuses on homes that have flooded multiple times or are hopelessly deep in the 100-year flood plain. It pays the pre-flood market value of the house, closing costs, relocation and storage expenses, and even up to $31,000 to cover the difference in cost between a homeowner’s old house and a comparable new one. It has purchased about 3,000 homes since its start. And it takes about two years from flood to buyout, if not more.

The county now prioritizes 70 neighborhoods with about 5,500 parcels and 3,300 homes. Every one of those areas flooded during Harvey; buying the homes would cost about $700 million.

Congress has approved $10 billion since Hurricane Harvey hit Houston for long-term storm recovery, including $5 billion it passed in September in Housing and Urban Development funds, some of which is earmarked specifically for buyouts.

But because of infighting and bureaucracy, none of that money has yet made it to Houston.

After storms, the Texas General Land Office typically coordinates the state’s application for HUD funding. The process is laborious: HUD takes months to come up with rules for each federal appropriation. The land office creates a state plan, and submits it to HUD, which evaluates the proposal and approves use of the money. Local governments then prioritize projects and submit them for state approval. The process takes months, if not longer.

But after Harvey, Houston and Harris County fought with the state over control of the money and appealed to HUD to submit their plans and receive their money without state oversight.

The land office has since sent the state plan to HUD for other area municipalities. It expects to hear back in about a month and a half.

But the tussle with the state has delayed the city and county. Neither has yet submitted a plan for approval, said Brittany Eck, spokeswoman for the land office.

“We are pushing,” said Tom McCasland, director of housing for the city of Houston. “We’re all frustrated we can’t move faster.”

And HUD hasn’t even announced rules for the second $5 billion.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Rep. Coleman. “That’s what everyone is complaining about.” He said he didn’t expect local governments to have HUD cash before the end of the summer.

The county is now considering including as many as 3,500 buyouts in its upcoming multi-billion dollar bond issue, which would be paid for by local property taxes.
Major changes from FEMA?

State legislators have heard testimony on the issues, said Coleman, who also chairs the House County Affairs Committee. He said he planned to look into some of the investor purchases as a type of price gouging.

County flood control leaders have briefed elected officials and FEMA chiefs on the problem, and suggested solutions — such as a rainy day fund set aside for buyouts.

And the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program, is itself considering major changes:

Federal money for mitigation — actions such as buying out homeowners or giving them grants to raise houses — typically comes after big storms, when Congress is motivated to act and traumatized homeowners are willing to sell. But the Flood Insurance Program’s new chief, David Maurstad, said last week that FEMA is now talking about “fundamental changes” that could make more money available before storms hit, removing more houses from the flood plain and moving more families to higher ground. Such actions would, at the same time, lower flood levels and reduce damages for those still at risk.

Wade, the county buyout chief, said most local flood control officials agree that something more needs to be done, though all aren’t convinced that eminent domain — the forcible sale of private property for public use — is the right approach.

The county doesn’t want to kick people out of their homes, Wade said. It wants them in a safer, better place.

“At the same time, we’ve got folks in these areas who’ve dug in, who have made it known to us, ‘Hey we are not interested in your program. We know it floods here. We’ve received your outreach letters,’ ” Wade said. “But they just don’t want to go.”


RECAP: May 15th Opioid and Substance Abuse Hearing

On Tuesday, May 15th, the Opioid and Substance Abuse Select Committee that I serve on held a hearing at the Capitol in Austin regarding the Prescription Monitoring Program. Led by Chairman Four Price (R-Amarillo), the Committee heard from invited speakers who provided recommendations that will improve efforts to prevent over-utilization and diversion of addictive prescriptions.

If you could not attend the hearing, please click here to watch Part 1 of the hearing. Click here to watch Part 2. Below, you will find time stamps of the various speakers that testified.

Click here for the Committee handouts.

The Committee met to hear invited and public testimony on the following interim charge:

Monitor and evaluate the implementation of legislation passed by the 85th Legislature regarding the Prescription Monitoring Program. In addition, review the prescribing of addictive drugs by physicians and other health care providers within various geographic regions of this state. Determine the role of health care professionals in preventing over-utilization and diversion of addictive prescriptions. Provide recommendations that will improve efforts to prevent over-utilization and diversion of addictive prescriptions.

Below is a list of speakers that testified during the hearing, along with time stamps. Thank you to all who testified in front of the Committee. 

PART 1

  1. Texas State Board of PharmacyAllison Benz, Executive Director (00:04)2. Texas Medical Board (00:27)
    Brint Carlton, Executive Director
    Scott Freshour, General Counsel

    3. Texas Society of AnesthesiologistsDr. Carlos Nichols “Nick” Lee, MD (01:03)

    4. Texas Medical Association Troy Fiesinger, MD, Family Medicine (01:15)

    5. UT Southwestern Medical CenterStacy Hail, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine (01:49)

    6. Texas A&M University Health Science CenterBree Watzak, PharmD, BCPS Assistant Professor (02:09)

    PART 2

    7. Pharmacy Associations (00:15)
    Justin Hudman, Texas Pharmacy Association
    -Jeff Loesch, PharmD, RPh, CHC, The Kroger Company, Dallas Division
    Jeremy Ashley, PharmD, Clinical Pharmacist, Brookshire Grocery Company
    Michael Wright, Texas Pharmacy Business Council, Independent Pharmacist
    Audra Conwell, CAE, Alliance of Independent Pharmacists

    8. Texas State Board of Dental Examiners (00:53)
    Boyd Bush, PhD, Executive Director
    Bryan Henderson, DDS, Dental Board Member

    9. Texas Board of Nursing James (Dusty) Johnston, General Counsel (01:13)

    10. Texas Optometry BoardChris Kloeris, Executive Director (01:35)

    11. Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (Podiatry) Hemant Makan, Sr. Program Specialist, Enforcement Division (01:37)

    12. Texas Hospital Association – John Hawkins, Senior VP, Government Relations (01:44)


From left to right: Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Ft. Worth), Rep. Ina Minajarez (D-San Antonio), Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston), Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas), Rep. James White (R-Hillister) (Chair of the Corrections Committee), Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) (Chair of the County Affairs Committee), Committee Director Sandra Tartlon, and Chairman Four Price (R-Amarill0) at Tuesday’s Public Health Committee hearing.

Texas House Democratic Caucus on Santa Fe High School Tragedy

CLICK HERE TO VIEW TEXAS HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE TRAGEDY


Rep. Chris Turner, Chair of the Texas Democratic House Caucus, speaking at the press conference on May 18th in Houston.


Our song of the week is “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon.

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