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Thousands Of Voters Mistakenly Flagged For Citizenship Checks, Federal Funds For Harvey Recovery, Texas’ Failure To Control Tobacco Use, And More

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

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The polling location at the Bering Memorial United Methodist Church, in Montrose, also had a long line that persisted after the time the polls closed, at 7 pm.
This March 2016 file photo shows voters in line to vote in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood during Super Tuesday.

Thousands Of Voters Mistakenly Flagged For Citizenship Checks

Harris County has found that thousands of county residents who were initially included on a list of potential non-citizens registered to vote shouldn’t have been placed on that list.

The Texas Secretary of State’s Office had distributed the names of about 95,000 registered voters who were not citizens when they obtained their driver’s license or state identification. But they later reached out to local officials across the state, including in Harris and Galveston Counties, advising them that some people on the initial list shouldn’t have been there.

In Harris County, according to Special Assistant County Attorney Douglas Ray, the state’s initial list flagged 29,822 people for citizenship checks.

The county first discovered more than 400 duplicate names on that list, and then removed thousands of others from the list after the Secretary of State’s Office said some had in fact already confirmed their citizenship with the state. According to Ray, the state also said people who registered to vote at a citizenship naturalization ceremony didn’t need to be on the list.

“We were able to remove nearly 18,000 of the names from the list,” Ray said, “giving us less than 12,000 to investigate further.” Ray said Harris County will continue to review the remaining names before asking those people to prove their citizenship.

Volunteers perform a rescue in northwest Houston, on Aug. 28, 2017, during Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath.

Federal Funds Worth $900 Million For Harvey Recovery

The Harris County Commissioners Court accepted Tuesday more than $909 million in federal funds to support local rebuilding efforts following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. The funds, which represent the first of two tranches coming to Harris County by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), will be disbursed over the coming months to residents with qualified claims.

The majority of the funds will go toward housing related projects, starting with home repair, reconstruction, buyout and reimbursements for homeowners on repairs made at their own expense. Additionally, funds will go toward repair and new construction of rental property, and toward building affordable housing options in the county.

Applications are already being accepted at the Harris County Project Recovery Website at www.harrisrecovery.org.  For questions call 832-927-4961 or email RebuildHarris@csd.hctx.net

The American Lung Association gives Texas an F grade in its latest tobacco control report.

American Lung Association Says Texas Is Failing To Control Tobacco Use

Texas received all “F” grades in the American Lung Association’s latest tobacco control report.

The group is calling on the Texas legislature to restore funding cut from tobacco use prevention programs in 2017, in addition to raising the age of sale from 18 to 21 and passing a smoke-free air law.

“In Texas, our smoking rates remains at 15.7%. Tobacco use is a serious and deadly addiction and we need to invest in the proven measures to prevent and reduce tobacco use,” American Lung Association Advocacy Director JoAnna Strother said in a press release.

Texas differs from most states most notably in its restrictions on where people can smoke and how much it spends on smoking prevention services. Currently, Texas has no state-level restrictions on public smoking except in schools, childcare facilities, and recreational/cultural facilities.

In funding smoking cessation programs and services, Texas spends $0.60 per smoker while the median investment among all states in the country is $2.21, according to the group.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Bush Criticizes Delay In Arrival Of $4 Billion For Harvey Recovery And Flood Mitigation

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush is complaining about the bureaucracy that’s delaying the arrival of federal funds worth $4 billion for Harvey recovery and flood mitigation projects in the state and is asking President Donald Trump to cut the red tape.

In response to the massive devastation Hurricane Harvey caused, Congress appropriated $4.383 billion to Texas to help rebuild and mitigate against future storms through Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery on February 9, 2018. That’s almost a year ago.

In order for Texas to receive these funds, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must publish rules governing the use of the recovery dollars in the Federal Register, which enables the Texas General Land Office to move forward drafting the state’s action plan.

“Mitigation should be a top priority to prevent future damage from hurricanes and storms while maximizing the use of recovery dollars, yet the federal bureaucracy is slowing recovery in Texas,” Bush wrote in the letter, which has the ultimate goal of asking Trump to call on HUD to publish the rules governing the $4.383 billion appropriated to Texas immediately.

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