The NCSL Blog


By Lucia Bragg

NCSL has relesed a new publication from the Public Private Partnership on Disaster Mitigation and Recovery: 2019-2020 State Legislative Report on Natural Disasters.

Informed by in-person and virtual convenings and ongoing coordination among partnership members, this comprehensive new report provides an overview of enacted state disaster legislation for the 2019-2020 legislative session and highlights ways states and federal agency partners can work together to support mitigation activities.

As natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity, state policy has become a primary conduit for solutions.

Disaster seasons of the last few years have broken records across the board. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and over a dozen others made 2017 the costliest hurricane season on record. The nation’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire season was 2018 and 2020 featured megafires unlike anything the nation has seen. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation averaged nearly 12 “billion-dollar” disasters annually over the past decade―up from less than five per year between 1980 and 2009. Total damages over the past five years exceeded $525 billion—an annual average of around $106 billion.

In the face of these growing costs, state legislatures are balancing competing priorities to fund and reform disaster mitigation and recovery in their states.

In 2019 and 2020, states enacted over 200 bills relating to natural disasters.

At least 70 of these bills improve infrastructure resilience, from roads and bridges to the energy grid, building codes and emergency communications. At least 100 bills enact broad emergency management reform from administrative changes to intergovernmental coordination and transparency.

Despite the ongoing challenge of balancing competing priorities for limited funding within state budgets—made no simpler by historic pandemic-induced budget shortfalls—over two-thirds of states enacted at least 95 bills appropriating funds or creating financial incentives for resilience activities. This report discusses state legislative trends in broad emergency management reform, finance and appropriations and infrastructure.

The Disasters Partnership was established in the wake of the 2017 disaster season, which highlighted both challenges and opportunities within intergovernmental coordination, public policy, and the role of the private sector in emergency management.

The partnership brings state legislators representing disaster-affected districts, or serving as their chamber’s public safety chairs, together with expert legislative staff and private sector partners to explore disaster policy solutions. This and other partnership resources, partnership membership, and schedule of partnership activities are also available on the partnership’s webpage.

Lucia Bragg is a senior policy specialist in NCSL’s State-Federal Relations Division.

Email Lucia.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.