Texas Legislature

83rd Legislative Session Report

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Check out the report on how the bills on GEAA’s legislative agenda fared during the 83rd session.

I am so pleased to report that all 15 of the “Bills We Hate” failed. Thank you so much for your calls, letters, and testimony! Five of these bad bills did make it to the Calendars Committee, which means we will have to watch out for them next session.

Of 27 versions of the “Bills We Love” eight passed!

The following bills are already passed into law:

  • SB 567 – Watson, Nichols – transfers the economic regulation of investor owned water utilities from TCEQ to the Public Utility Commission; ends the one-size-fits all rate-making treatment by establishing classifications according to connection count; and gives the Office of Public Utility Counsel standing to intervene in rate cases for residential and small business customers.
    Status: Filed without the Governor’s signature, to be effective on 09/01/13
  • HB 597 – Guillen – This bill would require the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife to include information about preventing the spread of exotic harmful aquatic plants, fish, and shellfish in boater education courses.
    Status: Effective immediately (05/24/2013)

The following are awaiting the signature of Governor Perry:

  • HB 857 – Lucio III – relating to the frequency of water audits by certain retail public utilities. This bill would require all retail public utilities providing potable water to perform and file with the Texas Water Development Board annual water audits computing the utility’s system water loss during the preceding year. It directs the TWDB to develop rules for these audits, and to compile this information according to regional water planning area. It further directs the regional water planning groups to use this information to identify appropriate water management strategies, recognizing conservation that could be achieved by addressing water loss as a significant measure to address future water needs.
    Status: Sent to the Governor (05/25/2013)
  • SB 198 – Watson and H.B. 449 – Dukes – allows for the installation of more drought-proof landscapes and limits homeowners associations’ power to prohibit installation of xeriscaped and more water efficient yards and landscapes and rainwater collection systems.
    Status: SB 198 sent to the Governor (05/25/2013) Thanks to your calls to the Calendars Committee, this great bill was scheduled for a vote during the last days of the session and ultimately passed!
  • HB 252 – Larson and SB 1170 – Hegar would mandate that water suppliers send a report to TCEQ if they are reasonably certain that they have less than six months of water left at their disposal. This will ensure that TCEQ has sufficient time to help water suppliers to locate alternative sources of water.
    Status: HB 252 sent to the Governor (05/20/2013)
  • HB 1241 – Guillen aimed at curbing the spread of invasive species through boating practices.
    Status: Sent to the Governor (05/23/2013)
  • HB 1182 – Kacal and SB 700 – Hegar – would require each state agency and institution of higher education to set percentage goals for reducing the agency’s or institution’s use of water, electricity, gasoline, and natural gas and include those goals in the agency’s or institution’s comprehensive energy and water management plan.
    Status: HB 1182 companion considered in lieu of in committee (04/15/2013); SB 700 sent to the Governor (05/28/2013)
  • HB 1554 – Rodriguez, Justin – enables a municipality to abate violations of floodplain management ordinances by empowering the municipality to require the work necessary to bring real property into compliance and allowing the municipality to assess the costs incurred against the property and file a lien against the property to recover costs, file suit to foreclose the lien and recover unpaid costs and interest.
    Status: Sent to the Governor (05/22/2013)

Of the remaining “Bills We Love”, five died in the Calendars committee while waiting to be scheduled for a vote, and the rest never made it out of the committees to which they were assigned.

You will have a chance to vote on funding the State Water Plan. HB 4, takes effect on 09/01/2013, except Sections 2.01-2.07, 2.13-2.18, and 2.21-2.26 take effect only if SJR 1 is approved by the voters.

Thanks the unflagging work of a great team of environmental lobbyists, HB 4:

  • Requires the TWDB to undertake to apply not less than 20% of the money disbursed in each five-year period to support projects, including agricultural irrigation projects, that are designed for water conservation or reuse
  • Requires the TWDB to undertake to apply not less than 10% of the money disbursed in each five-year period to support projects for rural political subdivisions or agricultural water conservation
  • Prohibits the use of state financial assistance for a water project if the applicant has failed to submit or implement a water conservation plan
  • Requires regional water planning groups in their prioritization of projects for state financial assistance to consider at a minimum such factors as the feasibility, viability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness of a project – factors which should work in favor of conservation projects
  • Requires TWDB in its process for prioritization of projects to receive state financial assistance to consider (among other criteria) the demonstrated or projected effect of the project on water conservation, including preventing the loss of water (taking into consideration whether the applicant has filed a water audit that demonstrates the applicant is accountable with regard to reducing water loss and increasing efficiency in the distribution of water)

So, all in all, it was an exhausting, but successful, legislative session. We are working on a report card so that you can see how your representative voted on key issues.

As always, I can’t thank you enough for your incredible response to the legislative alerts posted by GEAA during the past five months. I have it on good authority that your advocacy was the difference between life and death for certain of the bills on our agenda. This session proved that working together regionally definitely yields results!

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Xeriscaping Bills will conserve Texas Water

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Dear GEAA members and friends,

In today’s news are two excellent bills that GEAA is pleased to endorse. Senate Bill 198 and House Bill 449, by Sen. Kirk Watson and Rep. Dawnna Dukes would prevent Home Owners Associations (HOA’s) from restricting xeriscaping. It’s an issue that has received rising attention as the drought continues. Thanks and a tip of the hat to now SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente for filing similar bills during his past life as a State Representative.

Read more here.

GEAA is looking for support in the form of witnesses who would be able to testify about xeriscaping and your HOA’s involvement in xeriscaping. Folks who have stories to share (good or bad) please contact Annalisa@AquiferAlliance.org or Morgan.Scott@house.state.tx.us at the office of State Representative Dawnna Dukes (512-463-0506). We will keep you posted on these bills, and alert you when further support is needed.

In the meanwhile, if you are interested in learning more about xeriscaping with native plants, the San Antonio Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas is offering excellent workshops on this topic this spring.

For more on the big water issue that is dominating the 83rd Session, check out this excellent report from State Impact Texas on Preventing the Texas Water Plan from becoming a boondoggle.

Lastly, if you need a reminder on why we are so engaged with the future of water in Texas, you might want to take the Annual Tour of 700 Springs to visit the headwaters of the South Llano River on March 9th.

Stay tuned for more.

Annalisa Peace
Executive Director

You can always keep up with interesting water news on GEAA’s Facebook page and, you can mail contributions to support GEAA’s Legislative advocacy to PO Box 15618, San Antonio, Texas 78212

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If you can’t see it, does that mean it’s not there?

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Dear GEAA members and friends,

Heads up on bad bill filed last Friday: H.B. 824 – Callegari would triple the volume of sewage spills that require reporting from the current 500 gallons to 1,500 gallons. It would also exempt from reporting a spill that “does not reach waters of the State”. We read this to mean that many spills occurring in the Edwards Aquifer Contributing Zone and the recharge and contributing zones of the Trinity aquifers would be exempt from reporting. The bill also gives the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) more latitude in determining which spills are considered harmful to public health.

GEAA’s recently released studies on sewage spills within the Hill Country would have painted a completely different picture of the condition of our sewage infrastructure had the reporting requirements proposed by HB 824 been in effect. We can’t let the Legislature just sweep problems with wastewater infrastructure under the rug.

We need those of you represented by Trey Martinez Fischer, Tracy King, Lyle Larson or Doug Miller (all members of the House Natural Resource Committee) to let them know what you think of this bill filed by their fellow Committee member, Representative Bill Callegari of Houston. We will keep you posted on any movement of this stinker.

Tune in tomorrow (Tuesday, 2/5 at 8:30 a.m.) for a joint hearing of the House and Senate Natural Resource Committee on WATER. Those of you not in Austin can view the full hearing on-line tomorrow from this link: http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/

And, for a well reasoned opinion on how the State should address our water needs, read Andrew Samson’s op-ed in today’s Houston Chronicle.

Thanks to all of you for your interest and support,

Annalisa Peace, Executive Director

You can always keep up with interesting water news on GEAA’s Facebook page and you can mail contributions to support GEAA’s Legislative advocacy to PO Box 15618, San Antonio, Texas 78212

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