U.S. Rep. Randy Weber and other members of the Texas delegation met with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson this week to talk about progress on getting $4.4 billion in Hurricane Harvey disaster aid released to the state.
The answers the congressmen got from Carson weren’t good, Weber told The Daily News on Wednesday afternoon. It still might be months until the department releases the money, he said.
“It’s unacceptable,” Weber said. “We still have people out of their homes.”
The money was first approved in February 2018 and is meant to pay for infrastructure projects that could repair damage caused by Harvey in 2017, and to mitigate damage from future storms.
But release of that money has been delayed because the housing department hasn’t written rules on how it can be used, Weber said.
The new target for the release of a draft of the spending rules is now April, though Weber urged Carson to move faster, even if that might result in some objections about the department’s proposals, Weber said.
“Whatever they are, good, bad or indifferent, get them out,” Weber said. “Start that pot of money getting released.”
State attorneys and civil rights groups have spent two days this week in a San Antonio federal court arguing over whether to block or allow the review of thousands of voter registrations.
The hearings were the first from a group of lawsuits filed after the Texas Secretary of State’s office identified some 95,000 “potential non-U.S. citizens” on state voter rolls. Among the people ensnared in the lawsuits is Galveston County Voter Registrar Cheryl Johnson, who last month sent letters to dozens of Galveston County voters asking them to prove their citizenship.
In court on Tuesday, lawyers from the Texas Attorney General’s office argued the agency had not acted wrongly in the efforts to review people’s citizenships.
Instead, they argued it was county election officials who might have acted “contrary to state law,” according to the Texas Tribune.
On Wednesday, the election director for the Texas Secretary of State’s office testified that about 20,000 people should not have been on the initial list of potential non-citizens. Since the controversy began in late January, 43 people have asked to be removed from voter rolls because they were not actually citizens, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
On Friday, some of the same people who have been appearing at the San Antonio hearings are supposed to be in Galveston for a different lawsuit involving the same issues.
While attorneys have asked that the Galveston case be moved to San Antonio, for convenience, the Galveston hearing was still scheduled to happen as of Wednesday afternoon.
State Rep. Mayes Middleton joined eight other members of the super conservative Texas House Freedom Caucus to announce their priorities for the Texas legislative session. On the list: restricting property tax increases, putting limits on abortions and fighting any proposed gun control legislation.
Middleton used his part of the caucus’ press conference to talk about gun rights.
“Law-abiding Texans shouldn’t have to pay a fee or take a test to exercise their constitutional rights,” he said. “We also must stop any effort to pass red-flag laws. Gun confiscation from those who’ve committed no crime undermines both due process and our Second Amendment rights.”
Middleton, who was elected to his first term in November, also was named the caucus’ secretary and treasurer.
La Marque Mayor Bobby Hocking took a unique approach in making his state of the city address to the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. He sang part of it. Hocking covered The Doors and Petula Clark, among others, to talk about the fire station and downtown improvements in the city. ... There are 95 days remaining in the Texas legislative session. ... There are 72 days until Election Day.