Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Hurricane season predicted to be "near normal" ... Disaster bill put on hold by one House member ... Colorado passes insulin price cap.
Communities in Oklahoma and Arkansas already dealing with flooding and other severe weather are bracing for more storms on Tuesday. The swollen Arkansas River has reached record crests in some areas and a state official on Friday estimated that as many as 1,000 houses could be flooded at that time. On Monday, the Oklahoma National Guard was monitoring the levee system in Tulsa, while the city was offering transportation for those who choose to evacuate. Mayor G.T. Bynum told USA Today that the levees were holding up, but said the city is asking people to be ready. "We are asking for everyone to prepare for the worst-case scenario ... the worst flood in our history,” he said. Six people died as a result of the severe weather in Oklahoma over the weekend, including two who lost their lives when a tornado swept through a mobile home park in El Reno west of Oklahoma City. Gov. Kevin Stitt visited the town on Monday, where he spoke to President Trump on the phone. "Whatever you need in Oklahoma, we're here. Tell the Oklahomans that we're here to help them,” Stitt said the president said. Tulsa World; USA Today; New York Times; City of Tulsa; The Oklahoman]
HURRICANE PREDICTIONS | State and local government officials should prepare for an Atlantic hurricane season that is “near normal,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted last week. That means the country is likely to see nine to 15 named storms, including four to eight hurricanes (of those, NOAA predicts two to four could become “major” hurricanes with winds at least 111 mph). “Nine to 15 named storms is a lot, Two to four major hurricanes is a lot,” lead NOAA hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell said at a media briefing. “So the key message is: We are expecting a near-normal season. But, regardless, that is a lot of activity and you need to get prepared for hurricane season now.” After the hurricanes of 2017, which included Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida and the devastation of large swaths of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria, the Federal Emergency Management Agency acknowledged in an after-action report that it had lacked the necessary personnel to handle all of the storms. In particular, it failed to get sufficient people on the ground in Puerto Rico, as it was already struggling to deal with the earlier storms. But Daniel Kaniewski, the FEMA deputy administrator for resilience, said the agency has learned from those mistakes and is prepared to quickly move people currently assisting at one of the 50 active disaster areas. Plus, he noted that FEMA staffers are currently deployed to some of the areas most likely to be hit by hurricanes because of the busy 2017 and 2018 seasons. “We have prepositioned, quite unintentionally, our personnel to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts,” Kaniewski said. [NOAA; NPR; Miami Herald]
DISASTER BILL | While the Senate approved a $19 billion disaster relief bill supported by President Trump last week, the measure didn’t get the quick approval in the House on Friday that some expected. A lone Republican lawmaker objected, which means a delay for the bill, which would have needed to pass unanimously because most House members had already left for the Memorial Day recess. U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said he wanted the measure to include money for border security and emphasized that the House should vote on these kind of spending bills. The legislation contains funding for communities that are dealing with natural disasters over the past couple years, including hurricanes, wildfires and flooding. [NBC; CNN]
INSULIN COSTS | Insulin co-pays for diabetics in Colorado will be capped at $100 a month, but only for people on insurance. “We declare that the days of insulin price gouging are over in Colorado,” said Gov. Jared Polis, who signed the legislation last week. The price of the drug has been increasing in recent years, particularly for those who are uninsured or have insurance that requires them to pay a lot of out-of-pocket costs. The Colorado law was the first in the country to impose a monthly cap. [CBSDenver; Denver Post]
TEXAS SCHOOLS | Near the end of the session, the Texas legislature approved a measure to require teacher pay raises, while also cutting property taxes. The bill contains $6.5 billion for the raises and $5.1 billion to help reduce taxes. [Texas Tribune]
Laura Maggi is the Managing Editor of Route Fifty.