*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Good afternoon and thank you for joining us here today.
It is a pleasure to be here with the University of Texas leadership team including Chancellor Cigarroa and UTMB President Callender, as well as Chairman Huffines.
I want to thank you for hosting us here today.
I also want to thank the folks who represent you in Austin for being here.
Representatives Eiland and Taylor; congratulations for your hard work during the 81st legislative session.
Not too many states can claim a balanced budget, a tax cut for 40,000 small businesses and a Rainy Day fund that is projected to grow to $9 billion over the next two years.
It's good to see you all here today as we discuss issues that are very important to the people of this area and across the state.
The first is HB 4586. I will spare you all the details of this 70-page bill, but I will focus on one or two elements that really matter to this area.
As we gather here on a beautiful summer day, it's a little hard to imagine any kind of bad weather, much less the kind of destructive storms that blew ashore last year.
Those of us who watch the Weather Channel know that Hurricane Season has already officially started and that memories of last year's storms still linger.
The Gulf of Mexico certainly helps make Texas a vacation destination, and plays a key role in our state's position as the nation's leading exporter, however, it also exposes our citizens to brutal storms.
This past year was especially tough on this area, as Hurricane Ike destroyed homes, displaced our citizens and knocked out one of only three Level One trauma centers in this area.
I am pleased that the Legislature has seen fit to fund a number of key initiatives through this bill, including: more than $425 million dollars for disaster-related costs and expenditures, including $62 million in first-time funding for our disaster contingency fund, which will enable Texas to respond more quickly when disaster strikes.
This bill also includes $150 million for UTMB, which will help it continue to serve this area by treating patients, training doctors and setting the standard for medical excellence in this area.
I am here today to announce that full funding for our disaster-related expenditures and the completion of UTMB-Galveston is in the final version of the budget and emergency appropriations, and I am proud to sign them.
Now, to share his thoughts on this legislation, I would like to introduce Rep. Craig Eiland who helped keep the wheels turning in the House throughout the 81st legislative session. Craig?
Thank you, Craig. Now, to discuss this bill's direct impact on UTMB, I would like to introduce your president, Dr. David Callender.
Thank you, Dr. Callender.
This bill isn't the only piece of legislation we're here to talk about today, because the the annual storm season has a much broader impact.
The 2008 storm season was the worst in recent memory, so we're hoping it's not our turn again this summer.
However, we need more than optimism to protect our state.
As I like to say, we need to keep praying for the best and planning for the worst.
Part of that planning involves improving the way our state handles storm insurance through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which is why I declared this an emergency issue at the beginning of the recently-concluded legislative session.
I am grateful to Sen. Mike Jackson who sponsored House Bill 4409, which was written by Representatives Taylor, Eiland and Guillen.
Representative Hunter has also been a real champion of this effort.
In this bill, your legislators managed to address a number of key issues that have been making it tough for insurance companies to stay in the windstorm business, and for coastal Texans to get the windstorm coverage they need.
For example, this legislation restructures how TWIA pays for catastrophic events, and changes the way rates are set, moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach.
It also directs the Texas Department of Insurance to develop incentives for insurance companies to write windstorm coverage, so that TWIA truly becomes the insurer of last resort.
Let me boil it down for you: If our legislators hadn't gotten this done, the state could have gone bankrupt trying to pay insurance claims for another big storm.
If we hadn't gotten this done, we would have risked the chance that no insurance carrier would have written policies for coastal Texans.
If we hadn't gotten this done, too many Texans would have lost the means to protect their homes and businesses.
To me, this bill represents progress, incorporating sound business practices to improve the way we handle an essential issue, that affects all Texans.
Now, I would like to invite one of the authors of this bill, REP Taylor, to share his perspective on this important piece of legislation. Larry?
Thanks, Larry. Now, I hope you'll join me here as I sign House Bills 4409 and 4586 so we can continue this area's recovery and renewal for the future.
Thank you all for being here and for your engagement in our state's legislative process. You are the people we work for and we are proud to serve.
God bless you all and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.