The Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Disaster Recovery held a hearing yesterday featuring testimony from Texas and Louisiana leaders about the impact hurricanes Gustav and Ike had on their states. While those testifying noted improved cooperation with the federal government since Katrina hit three years ago, they also pointed to some serious problems that need to be addressed.

Among the issues raised at the hearing:

* The leader of a Louisiana city that frequently takes in evacuees when storms threaten the coast, Shreveport Mayor Cedric B. Glover sees a need for permanent, well-supplied shelters. He noted problems with evacuation procedures, including the fact that sex offenders and individuals with outstanding warrants were allowed to leave on buses that were carrying children. Glover also reported poor conditions on the evacuation buses. "Many riders talked of buses with overflowing or inoperable bathrooms, making it necessary for them to soil themselves before they ever reached us," he told the committee. "It is critical that evacuees be treated humanely throughout this entire process. Evacuation from your home is stressful enough."

* Noting the importance of Louisiana's energy corridor to the national economy and how it is threatened by coastal erosion, Louisiana state Sen. Reggie Dupre of hard-hit Terrebonne Parish said that since Congress wants to open up new offshore areas for oil and gas drilling it might make sense for it first to protect existing production and distribution facilities by protecting the coast. He also made the case for full funding of federal hurricane protection projects such as the controversial Morganza-to-the-Gulf levee system, which is the target of a lawsuit by an environmental group that says the project endangers fragile wetlands.

* Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas requested $2.4 billion in relief and rebuilding assistance for her devastated city. That amount includes $600 million for the University of Texas Medical Branch, including its new biosecurity lab; $500 million for the port; $350 million for business recovery; $200 million for housing; and $100 million for beach erosion. She also asked the federal government to hand over a 600-acre piece of seawall-protected land it holds for future development. That request is raising eyebrows back home: There's been talk of handing the parcel over to a local developer for as little as $1, but other city leaders say the land should benefit Galveston residents more broadly.

* Houston Mayor Bill White asked the federal government to streamline assistance to his and other hard-hit communities, calling for a pilot program embedding FEMA auditors and personnel within local governments to simplify the review and approval process. "With respect, it is disrespectful to suggest that our track record for efficiency or integrity is somehow more suspect than FEMA or HUD or others who may second-guess us after the fact," White said. He called for housing vouchers for displaced homeowners as well as direct assistance for people who lost apartments that could be used for rent or down payments on homes as a way to avoid the problematic use of temporary trailers and the considerable expense of hotels.

* While acknowledging better coordination between FEMA and his state since Katrina, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said improvements were needed in the flow of basic commodities such as water and food. He also called on the federal government to cover all and not just part of the costs of infrastructure repair and coastal restoration, agriculture and fisheries assistance, economic recovery, emergency preparedness and readiness, and health care and social services.

* Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst pointed out that his state was granted full federal reimbursement for debris removal -- but for only two weeks starting with the disaster declaration. "That is unsufficient time," he said. "The down debris covers an area larger than the State of New York." Dewhurst asked for full assistance to extend at least 60 days from when the contract is signed. He also called on the federal government to extend its full coverage of individual assistance beyond 30 days, noting that the state still has 14,000 evacuees in state-supported shelters or other temporary housing solutions.

The subcommittee's chair, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, released a statement after the hearing praising FEMA for doing a better job of working with state and local governments to evacuate communities in advance of Gustav and Ike. "But it is clear that communities are having difficulty navigating FEMA's mess of lingering red tape as they work to recover from these storms," she said. "It is also evident that the agency has more work to do in making its supply distribution process as swift and effective as catastrophes of this magnitude require."

To watch the full hearing, click here.