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Disaster Relief Bill Should Finally Bring $4 Billion To Texas, Woman Accuses Cardinal DiNardo Of Dismissing Sex Abuse Case, And Pipeline Protesters Could Face 20 Years In Prison

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

An aerial view of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.
An aerial view of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017.

Disaster Relief Bill Should Finally Bring $4 Billion To Texas

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill Monday evening, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign. A key provision of the bill is a White House “shot clock,” implemented by Texas Senator John Cornyn, which would require the Office of Management and Budget to release more than $4 billion in disaster aid owed to Texas within a 90-day window. 

After Congress approved more than $16 billion in disaster relief funds in early 2018, efforts by Texas representatives to secure the state’s share have been frustrated by bureaucratic hurdles in OMB and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

U.S. Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, a Friendswood Republican, recently introduced a bill with similar language to Cornyn’s provision demanding that HUD release the long overdue $4 billion to Houston-area districts still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Cardinal Daniel Dinardo.

Woman Accuses Cardinal DiNardo Of Dismissing Sex Abuse Case

A Texas woman has accused Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, of dismissing a sex abuse case that involved a local highly-ranked clergy member.

Laura Pontikes’ first report to the archdiocese about Monsignor Frank Rossi drawing her into a relationship that entailed sexual encounters had occurred in April 2016, according to The Associated Press. In December of that year, Pontikes met with DiNardo in Houston to talk to him about the relationship and says the cardinal declared her a “victim” of the priest.

Pontikes says she was assured Rossi would never be a pastor or counsel women again, but subsequently found out that DiNardo had allowed the priest to take a new job as pastor in east Texas.

The archdiocese acknowledged an inappropriate physical relationship between Rossi and Pontikes, but asserted that it was consensual and didn’t include sexual intercourse. In a written statement to AP, it defended its handling of the case, saying Rossi was immediately placed on leave and went for counseling after Pontikes reported him.

Rossi’s alleged sexual relationship with Pontikes is now the subject of a criminal investigation in Houston.

A protest encampment along the route of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota in 2017.

Pipeline Protesters Could Face 20 Years In Prison

Protesters could face up to 20 years in prison for interfering with oil and gas pipelines under a new proposal from the Trump Administration.

The plan, if approved by Congress, would go beyond a similar crackdown Texas lawmakers approved during the recent state legislative session.

It’s already against federal law to damage or destroy certain pipelines or pipeline facilities, namely those that are used in interstate or international commerce. But a proposal to Congress from the U.S. Department of Transportation would also make it illegal to vandalize or disrupt pipelines.

The possible 20-year sentence is tougher than the 10 years protesters could soon face under a Texas bill headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The Trump Administration’s pitch to Congress is part of a much broader proposal aimed at enhancing pipeline safety across the country.

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