Windstorm bill signed while tropical storm makes landfall

Published 4:33 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tuesday was the tale of two Bills in Texas: One a tropical storm making landfall near Port O’Connor, and the other a revamp of the state’s windstorm insurance that was signed into law by State Governor Gregg Abbott.
Though Tropical Storm Bill’s impact to Southeast Texas proved to be minimal, reforms to the state’s insurer of last resort will be felt by most Texas Coastal community residents.
Senate Bill 900, authored by Senators Brandon Creighton, Larry Taylor, Lois Kolkhorst and Eddie Lucio, and House sponsor Rep. Greg Bonnen makes changes to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s funding mechanism, and revamps the Association’s board of directors.
“This is a huge step in the right direction for coastal residents,”  District 21 State Representative Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said.
The bill was signed into law and filed Tuesday morning and a ceremonial signing will likely be next week, according to Sam Taylor, press assistant, Office of the Governor.
Phelan, who was a joint author of the bill, said it would go a long way in making TWIA solvent and prepare the Association for a once in a 100 year storm.
The bill, he said, had broad bi-partisan support, and broad support from all areas of the state.
“This was a huge issue for Southeast Texans. They wanted to see it done this session, and we got it done,” Phelan said, adding that both the Port Arthur and Beaumont Chambers of Commerce were active in the process.
Getting the bill passed was no easy feat. Of the state’s 254 counties, 14 are coastal counties.
“The numbers were not there. We had to work to build that coalition. The whole coastal community came together to convince our inland constituents that this is an issue that affects neighborhoods just like theirs, and these are working class people who deserve a reasonable insurance rate,” Phelan said.
Among the changes is an anticipated increase in the number of private insurers offering windstorm coverage, an improved funding structure to pay claims from major hurricane damage and a decrease in premium rates.
The new law provides that TWIA will fund catastrophic storms through premiums, public securities and a catastrophe fund.
The Association’s board of directors will also be revised to include three members representing the insurance organization who wrote and renewed windstorm and hail insurance in first tier coastal counties; three members representing the coast, and three members representing inland Texas.
Abbott signed the bill Tuesday morning while Tropical Storm Bill made landfall around Port O’Connor. Though the storm did not result in catastrophic damage, it did give coastal residents pause, and those in the storm’s Central Texas path.
After making landfall Tuesday morning near Port O’Connor, the tropical storm headed inland, cutting a path through Central Texas, where subsequent rain is forecast for a eight-state area reaching all the way from the Lone Star State to Indiana.
The Houston-Galveston area received much of the rain from Bill, making already-saturated soils from May floods worse.
The Port Arthur area, on the outer fringes of the storm’s path, received minimal impact with rain and thunderstorms across much of the region Tuesday.
More rain is predicted for Wednesday, though forecasters anticipate not as much as was originally anticipated.
That’s something to be thankful for,  Donald Jones, meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Lake Charles office, said.
“The ground has been saturated. In May, the Port Arthur area picked up 7.77 inches of rainfall which is 2.5 inches above the norm, and we’ve had plenty of rainfall into June, Jones said. “We have been in a wet pattern and could use some sunshine.”
Jones predicted that by Thursday the storm will be out of the area, and more normal summer weather will return to the forecast.
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