“I do feel like I had a huge advantage because I knew any member that was there longer than one session,” Harless said. “So I had a good relationship going in with [Speaker of the House] Dennis Bonnen and most of the senior members of the Texas House and even the Senate.”
However, he said he was surprised about how much work it took to get a bill signed into law. While the session convenes for 140 days at a time, the window for hearing bills is much shorter, he said.
In addition to supporting major legislation regarding school finance and property tax reforms, Harless filed 10 bills of his own by the end of the session—several of which were signed into law. Of these, he said he was most proud of two flooding-related bills.
“Flooding for me is a big issue out here, and it will continue to be a big issue,” he said. “I’m glad we passed the bond, but I’m not 100% sure that’s enough yet.”
House Bill 3782 grants the Harris County Flood Control District authority to clear debris from property owned or maintained by the district.
House Bill 3753 allows county fire marshals to train all first responders and law enforcement offices for natural disaster preparedness.
“Currently, if you have a natural disaster, fire marshals are only able to train firefighters and fire personnel. Harris County wanted a bill passed where the fire marshal’s office can establish a training academy to cross-train all first responders,” he said. “If we have another Hurricane Harvey, everyone would be on the same page.”
Harless said in the interim leading up to the 87th Texas Legislature, his goal is to learn more about the issues concerning residents in District 126.
One project he said he plans to address is a new development south of Vintage Preserve Parkway and west of Cutten Road near Cy-Fair and Spring. Developers with Alliance Residential and Sparrow are working to bring a new apartment complex and a new senior living facility to the 51-acre tract, which lies partially in a flood plain.
“I don’t have a problem with people building apartment complexes on it, but when you’re going to build assisted-living facilities or senior housing in an area that you know is a flood area, that’s a problem for me,” he said. “I don’t think we need to be exposing our seniors to that. I find that just deplorable that anybody would do that—especially after the flooding we’ve had three years in a row.”