Capitol Office: (512) 463-0564
District Office: (979) 848-1770
Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bonnen Fights Windstorm Insurance Bill

Insider's Report Vol. 7, No. 11

Advances legislation to allow Brazoria County to form new regional planning commission

As your voice in Austin, it is clearly my goal to pass legislation that will benefit the residents of Brazoria County.  But it is also my goal to fight against any legislation that will bring nothing but negative consequences for the people of my district.  HB 911 is one such bill.  It calls for insurance rates in Texas to be assessed based on geography, with the underlying idea that people who have chosen to live along our coastline should have to pay a disproportionately higher premium for that choice.

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) is the state's last-resort insurer for wind and hail coverage in the 14 coastal counties.  But TWIA's funds were completely depleted by claims after Hurricane Ike.  HB 911 would unfairly require residents of coastal counties to shoulder the cost of replenishing the TWIA fund.  This would be done by increasing our insurance rates by as much as sixty percent, while inland property owners would remain unaffected.  HB 911 would then make any homestead in a coastal area uninsurable over $250,000, and it would make any second home completely uninsurable!  These are only some of the many awful provisions in this very bad bill.

This is all simply unacceptable.  Shifting this burden solely to the coast would be devastating both to residents of coastal counties and to the entire coastal economy.  Furthermore, HB 911 does not take into account the coast's huge contribution to our state's overall revenue and fails to consider other areas in Texas that are constantly subject to tornados, hail and windstorms.  These occurrences have just as much effect on increasing our state-wide risk.

I have had several meetings with members of the coastal delegation to discuss our objections to HB 911 and how to kill it.  Currently, HB 911 has been stalled in committee due to our efforts, and that is where I hope it will stay.  But I will be sure to notify you in my newsletter if HB 911 does come up for a committee hearing in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I will continue to work with my colleagues on a fair solution that allows those who love the Texas coast to continue their rebuilding efforts, trusting their investment is protected.

This coming week, we will conduct a hearing on a bill I filed, HB 3552.  This is a bill that I believe would greatly benefit Brazoria County.  HB 3552 would allow Brazoria County, along with our neighboring, similarly-sized counties to form a new regional planning commission.  This new commission, also known as a council of governments (COG), would take the place of our current relationship in the COG known as the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC).

COGs were originally established as a way to study and better plan for the development of regions throughout Texas.  However, over the past twenty years, COGs have been transformed into a convenient means through which federal and state funds are channeled.  It is my firm belief that as a member of H-GAC, Brazoria County is often overshadowed and outnumbered by its much larger fellow members Harris County and the City of Houston.  Brazoria County's funding requests and project needs can very quickly take a back seat to the needs of a city and county who boast over 3.9 million people.  Over the past five years alone, of the total federal and state funding H-GAC has been responsible for distributing, roughly 68% of this money has gone just to Harris County and the City of Houston.  Furthermore, planning for our region as a whole is greatly hindered by the pressing needs that Houston and Harris County present by themselves.

In allowing for the creation of a new COG made up of similarly-sized counties like Brazoria, Galveston, Matagorda, and Fort Bend, HB 3552 lets us escape the shadow of Houston and Harris County.  This would allow Brazoria County to better take advantage of the federal and state funding that is distributed through the COG system and entitle us to our fair share of these funds.  And it would allow us to better plan for the future of our entire region, rather than just that of Houston and Harris County.