Sunday, March 29, 2009

HB 1026 in Texas

In Texas, there's a bill in the house that wants to create a huge new layer of emergency management infrastructure based geographically on congressional district lines. Not a good solution to the problems it identifies.

HB 1026

Well, I took a crack at it, and here's the open letter with my solutions:

Representative Al Edwards has proposed HB 1026, a law that is designed to accomplish the following goals:

1)increase number of trained responders in a district
2)coordinate information and planning among district residents and local, state, and federal officials
3)coordinate distribution of aid during a disaster or emergency
4)serve as a source of information to the government responders and residents of the district.

Representative Edwards was first elected in 1978, and has served in Congress since then. He sits on the Appropriations, Appropriations-S/C on Criminal Justice, Defense & Veterans' Affairs, and Rules & Resolutions committees. On his website, Rep. Edwards tells us, “I am that unbiased individual who is willing to fight for the betterment of all citizens, especially for the improvement of our educational system.”
Rep. Edwards is obviously trying to do the right thing with HB 1026. You can see clearly that what he wants is to help open up communication flows between the citizens and their government, and to ensure that in a disaster all of the citizens in his jurisdiction receive the help and information they need.
While the bill's goals are noble, its methods are, like all of us, imperfect. It may be fairly said that, while redundancy is an important part of emergency management, the bill as written simply contains too much of a good thing. It would be better, perhaps, to take a more flexible approach to reaching the goals laid out in the bill.
Thus, it is best to view HB 1026 as an excellent opportunity to work with Rep. Edwards in crafting a reborn version of the bill that leverages existing public institutions and emergency management offices to maximize the effectiveness of each tax dollar spent, while at the same time providing needed capabilities and programs for the people of Texas.
It is with this in mind that the following outline is proposed as a foundation for building toward a new, even better version of HB 1026.

HB 1026

Made of the following broad initiatives:
1)Emergency Responder Training Grant
2)Public Information Enhancement Grant
3)PODS Community Training Grant
4)CERT Training Grant

With the following specifics:
1)Each congressional district will be allowed to sponsor a certain number of recent high school graduates who have shown excellence in education by scoring in the top 25 percent of their class, either in GPA or TAKS testing, with scholarships to an accredited Texas school for instruction in Emergency Medical Services, Fire Response, Police Training, or Emergency Management.
2)Each County Emergency Management office or County Judge (if no Emergency Management office exists) will receive funds sufficient to produce, print, and mail a public information document that will be at least six pages in length and contain information on local planned points of distribution for emergency aid, as well as methods to request any other public information available from local emergency managers. Where municipal emergency management offices exist, they will be allowed a minimum of one page (more can be allocated from the county if desired) to insert their own information into the document.
3)Funding will be allocated to perform exercises, training, and community outreach in the establishment and running of Point Of Distribution Sites (PODS).
4)Funding will be appropriated to assist in the production and promotion of local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT programs). CERT training classes, CERT support materials (including shirts, badges, hats and other identifying or uniform type items for use during disasters), and other related expenses will be eligible for funding under grants in this section.
5)Each session of congress shall appropriate an amount of funds it deems appropriate to this program. Grant awards will be handled by a suitable state agency (under the advice of the local congressional representative). Emergency managers or County Judges participating in this program will report back on the results of the spending to their respective congressional representatives on a yearly basis, including student graduation rates, after action reports from exercises funded under this act, and any CERT activities in the district. Copies or transcripts of any written feedback from citizens will also be included in this report. All costs associated with compliance with this bill will be reimbursed by the state.

Michael Leza

No comments: