DICKINSON, Texas - A little known requirement to get Harvey relief money is raising eyebrows and the City of Dickinson is facing a backlash over that requirement in House Bill 89.
The bill was just signed into law this summer and it basically says if anyone wants to do business with the State of Texas, you cannot boycott the nation of Israel.
That's because Texas is Israel’s biggest trade partner in the US.
On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union says the law is unconstitutional and City of Dickinson is caught in the middle.
The city took a major hit during Hurricane Harvey. Nearly 80 percent of its homes were affected by flooding
“We have an expense with Hurricane Harvey that at this point we probably cannot cover” said Mayor Julie Masters.
In the aftermath, donations poured in to help out the city and its citizens.
“Some small amounts, some significant amounts. The total came to a little over a $1 million so we needed to figure out a way to get that money into the hands of the citizens that needed it most” said Masters.
Mayor Masters and other officials created a grant relief program so they could best allocate that money, public money that became subject to the same laws of the state aka House Bill 89.
“We had to include that verbiage in that statute that was required in that statute.” Masters said.
It's wording now included in the Hurricane Harvey Repair Grant Application from the City of Dickinson
“We're just the messenger. Don't crucify us. We're just following state law until that law can be revised to not make us have to take that stand and speak for everyone. We don't want to take away anyone's freedom of speech.” she said.
The ACLU said that Galveston, San Antonio and Austin have all implemented this law, but Dickinson believes it's the first community to be spotlighted.
“It's very disheartening. We're trying to do something good for the people of our community that have suffered.” Masters said.
The law requires any state contractor, including disaster relief recipients, to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel and according to the ACLU that is unconstitutional.
Dickinson said it will be talking with state officials and try to get some clarification on wording of the law next week.
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