News Roundup: Another Fix Needed To Keep National Flood Insurance Program From Expiring

Our daily look at headlines from across the state.

By Becky FogelDecember 4, 2018 1:57 pm

The U.S. House and Senate have until Friday night to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If that fast-approaching deadline sounds familiar, it’s because Congress has already passed a couple of short-term extensions this year to keep the program up and running. In fact, before this seven-day extension President Donald Trump signed over the weekend, the program was set to expire on November 30, which is also the last day of the Atlantic hurricane season.

David Maurstad is chief executive for the NFIP. He says he’s confident Congress will reauthorize this FEMA program before the deadline, but warns “if the program were to lapse, we couldn’t see or renew flood insurance policies, or borrow from the U.S. Treasury to pay claims for existing policies.” He adds, “we can still process and pay claims on the flood insurance policies that exist now and the claims that have happened this year, as long as the funds are available, and right now we do have the fund available to do that.”

Still, the NFIP is currently $20 billion in debt. And while the program will always carry some debt as currently structured, Maurstad says one way to improve its financial health is by signing more people up for flood insurance – even in flood-prone cities like Houston, where people are already more likely to have this type of coverage. That city’s coverage still wasn’t enough, Maurstad says, “even though they rank high in relationship to their peers across the country.… 80 percent of the properties that were damaged in Hurricane Harvey did not have the necessary flood insurance.”

The U.S. Senate has already approved a measure that would extend the program for six months, but the House has yet to move on an extension.

For the first time ever, the state’s top military official will be a woman.

Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed Major General Tracy Norris to be the next Adjutant General of Texas.

Trey Shaar, with KUT News in Austin, reports that General Norris has more than three decades of military experience, including two tours in Iraq. She’s also no stranger to Austin’s Camp Mabry, the headquarters of the Texas Military Department. Norris has had assignments there six times, going back to the early 2000s.

The most recent is Assistant Adjutant General, a position Norris has held since the beginning of 2016. At the start of 2019, she’ll take over as Adjutant General, the top officer in command of the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and Texas State Guard.

Peanut production fell more than 40 percent in Texas this year.

There were several factors at play, including fewer planted acres, summer drought, and heavy rains this fall.

Dr. Emi Kimura, statewide peanut specialist with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, says it is a big drop from one year to the next, but she puts this figure into perspective, noting Texas has normally averaged about 150,000 to 160,000 planted acres “for a long time, except for the past two years.”

That puts this year’s harvest on par with year’s past, at 155,000 planted acres.