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Fellow Texans:

Texas faces many challenges that were unimaginable before the tragedies in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. We are now a nation at war against terrorism. Many of our family members, friends, and neighbors will be called to ensure our freedom and safety at home and abroad. Those of us on the home front are united with them in our thoughts and prayers.

As a mother and grandmother, I know the enormous battle we face against terrorism and the importance of this moment for our nation; and I understand the uncertainty and fears that families face when their loved ones are called to confront danger. We bear a crucial responsibility to support Texas men and women as they fight the nation’s war on terrorism. Similarly, we owe all of our families protection and security through the operation of our emergency and public health services.

That is why I asked my staff to create this package of proposals of financial, educational, and personal assistance to our military, police officers, public safety, and emergency management personnel and their families, and proposals to enhance our readiness to deal with emergencies.

The Texas War Relief Package contains my plan of action to support the families and children of our Texas men and women in harm’s way, plus other actions to strengthen our preparedness for disaster situations. I look forward to working with each of you, the members of the Texas Legislature, and Texans across the state to turn these proposals into reality. Thanks for all that you do for Texas.

Sincerely,

[signed]

Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller

Personal Assistance

1
Texas will support military families through “Texas Friends of Freedom.”
2
Texas should continue state-paid health insurance contributions for employees called to active military duty.
The State Auditor’s Office should review federal laws to determine if Texas is in compliance with laws established after the Gulf War, and other state benefit policies to determine if updates or policy interpretations are recommended.
The Employees Retirement System should review federal laws regarding employee benefits to determine if Texas is in compliance.
Texas should examine other benefit policies, such as retirement benefits, dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, or contributions to Health or Child Care Reimbursement Accounts to determine if changes should be made.
Texas should determine if state agencies should pay the employee’s share of health care contributions paid for family or spouse coverage.
3
The Comptroller of Public Accounts and other interested state agencies will coordinate private sector donations of computers, wiring and Internet accounts to help children of military personnel stay in touch with parents on active duty.
4
The Comptroller’s office will allow its employees to earn compensatory time for assisting the families of reservists called up to active duty in completing their federal income tax returns through the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
5
Texas should declare September 11 a Day of Remembrance .


Education Assistance

1
The Texas Tomorrow Fund, through its scholarship foundation, will raise contributions from individuals and corporations to provide tuition and required fees for children affected by the war effort.
2
Texas should modify the Texas Hazlewood Act to waive tuition and fees to the spouses of Texas servicemen killed inthe line of duty during the “Enduring Freedom” campaign against terrorists.
Texas should amend Texas Government Code §615.121, which authorizes tuition and/or fee waivers and reimbursement for the cost of textbooks to include the spouses and dependents of public safety officers killed in the “Noble Eagle” homeland defense campaign.
3
The Texas Education Agency should provide counseling resources for school districts on the state’s education Web page.
4
Texas should increase the number of instructional staff at the Texas Engineering Extension Service’s training program.


Financial Assistance

1
Texas state agencies and institutions of higher education whose employees are called to active military duty from Military Reserves or National Guard status should grant these employees a standard monthly emergency leave benefit to ensure these employees and their families do not suffer from a reduction in income while serving their country.
2
Texas should allow additional $20,000 property tax exemptions for reservists called to active duty.
3
Texas should amend current state law to give franchise tax credits to telephone companies or other donor companies that provide a telephone calling card to the families of National Guard members and reservists called to active duty for the “Enduring Freedom” and homeland defense “Noble Eagle” campaigns against terrorism; and any future national emergencydeclared in accordance with federal law.
4
Texas should expand the current state tax holiday to cover all items priced under $100, purchased by family members of active military personnel during the tax holiday period.
5
Texas should provide tuition exemptions for police officers enrolled in criminal science courses at state institutions of higher education.
6
Texas should reimburse state sales taxes paid by police officers, Emergency Medical Services personnel, firefighters and public safety officials who reach into their own pockets to pay for certain equipment.
7
Texas should use the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund for victims of terrorism.
8
Texas should promote the employment of dependents of military reservists who are called to serve during the war effort.
9
Texas should use prison labor for relief items.
10
Texas should exempt sales of U.S. flags, the Texas flag and the P.O.W.-M.I.A. flag from the sales tax.
11
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) should expand its current child care plan to include a priority focus on child care and funding strategies for children of active military personnel, emergency workers and victims’ families.
12
Texas should allow the families of reservists who have been called to active duty to enter state parks free of charge.
13
The Comptroller’s office will publicize various tax breaks and Comptroller services already available that may be of interest to the public as it copes with disasters.
14
The Comptroller’s office will develop longer leave with pay policies during extended periods of crisis for all disaster responders. The policies will be uniform for all disaster responders, including volunteer firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), and Red Cross volunteers.
The Comptroller’s office will develop consistent training leave policies for all responders.
The Comptroller’s office will develop policies for paying for all or a portion of the training for volunteer firefighters, EMTs, and Red Cross Responders. Training may be counted as part of the agency-required training for personnelduring a fiscal year.
The Comptroller’s office will recommend to the Texas Legislature any necessary changes in state law that would encourage the development and skills of disaster responders who are state employees and who contribute valuable assets to their agencies and communities. Other state agencies may use the new Comptroller’s Office policies voluntarily.


Emergency Management

1
The Emergency Management Council’s and Governor’s Task Force on Homeland Security’s review of the state’s Emergency Management Plan should include all recommendations necessary to ensure the state’s capacity and flexibility to prevent, mitigate and respond immediately to disaster situations.
2
Texas should issue bonds to build or increase the security of critical transportation infrastructure required for military purposes, and to improve existing security at airports, coastal ports, other points of entry, major petrochemical facilities and other public infrastructure.
3
Texas should create a GIS database that contains all information that might be needed during a disaster.
4
The Governor’s Division of Emergency Management should expand its current Web site to provide more information related to emergency planning and information during a crisis as well as develop a best practices database on emergencymanagement.
5
Texas should bolster anti-terrorism capabilities by developing regional epidemic response teams in eight of the TDH’s regional offices.
Texas should increase state and local health department microbiological and chemical laboratory capacity to detect and respond to bioterrorism and chemical terrorism.
Texas should enhance infectious disease epidemiology and surveillance.
Texas should create an Office of the State Epidemiologist that would assist local governments and hospitals withenhancing their current emergency response plans to include bioterrorism preparedness.
Texas should expand the Health Alert Network program to more local health departments and train local health department staff to recognize and respond to bioterrorism.
6
In coordination with private non-profit blood donation centers and other stakeholders, Texas should expand the state’s capacity to accept and manage blood donations during a crisis, including as a last resort the use of state facilities and staff.
TDH should build a ready and coordinated “just-in-time” blood donation supply through a coordinated educational campaign.
7
The retirement multiplier for DPS commissioned officers who retire with at least 30 years of service should be increased from 2.80 percent to 3.0 percent per year of service.
A Deferred Retirement Option Plan should be offered to DPS troopers who are eligible to retire and have at least 25 years of service credit in the Employees Retirement System of Texas.
DPS should develop a program of multiple incentives, including a bonus plan tied to years of service; provide hazardous duty pay, and develop a plan of stipends for special DPS trooper expertise, based on education, special expertise in languages, enforcement methods and other professional certifications.
8
Texas should offer training to teachers, school administrators, and students to provide immediate emergency medicalassistance to those injured in emergencies.
9
School districts should develop new school safety plans or expand existing plans to include a response to domestic terrorism.
The Texas School Safety Center at Southwest Texas State University should develop or contract for model school safety plans for small, medium and large size school districts.
The Texas School Safety Center should expand its services to include planning for domestic terrorism.
10
Texas should require local governments to develop a Risk and Needs Assessment Capability Plan with funding contingent on the development of such a plan.
Texas should create 10 HAZMAT/WMD (Hazardous Material/Weapons of Mass Destruction; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Explosives, & Incendiaries) regional response teams that could be dispatched immediately to respondto a terrorist attack.
11
Texas should amend the Texas Constitution to allow the Legislature the flexibility to fund improved transportation safety from the State Highway Fund.
12
Texas should offer “United Americans” or “Land of the Free” license plates and dedicate revenue to disaster assistance and special program funding.
13
Texas should create new criminal offenses for terrorism, enhance penalties for terrorist acts and amend state law to allow the death penalty for criminals convicted of acts of terrorism.
14
Texas should initiate a series of measures to improve security in state facilities.
15
Texas should update state agency emergency evacuation plans for disabled employees.
16
The Comptroller’s office will assist employers by placing information about emergency management planning and implementation along with appropriate links to organizations that can provide technical and financial support on its Window on State Government Web site.
17
The Comptroller will use videos and satellite feed from the Emergency Education Network (EENET) of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to train Comptroller employees for disaster response, risk assessment, and taxpayer assistance in emergencies.
18
Texas telemedicine providers and others with electronic networks across the state, such as the Texas Education Agency, should work together to develop disaster plans using telemedicine and incorporate these plans in the Texas Telemedicine/Telehealth Master Plan and, as appropriate, in the state’s Emergency Management Plan.


Military Family Assistance Websites


Acknowledgments