AWBD Texas Legislature Update: Sine Die in Sight

By Auggie Campbell, AWBD Executive Director

The 87th Texas Legislative Session will end in a few days . AWBD is still on track to have an exceptional session. Most of the hundreds of bills that will become law will pass in the next few days, and thousands of more bills will be left pending assignments or votes in various committees. Luckily for AWBD, the Legislature looks set to pass most of the bills that AWBD supports while bills that AWBD opposed seem hung up in committee.

Good, Viable Bills:

Good news: HB 1410 (Murphy/Creighton—Parks Bonds) and SB 1160/HB3029 (Taylor/Paul—Coastal Spine); and SB 526/1154 (Kolkhorst/Jetton—Transparency) are all still in position to pass. These bills will still need Governor Abbott’s signature to become law.

AWBD’s Parks Bill, HB 1410 (Murphy/Creighton) came out of committee with a 3% cap (up from the current 1% cap). This bill, which is on local and consent calendars, will be a big help to water districts seeking to provide their communities with more green space, recreational benefits, and economic growth.

SB 1160 (Taylor/Paul), the Gulf Coast Protection District Act, will help Texas receive $30B in federal funding for the Coastal Spine and has already passed through both houses. AWBD joined many other organizations in supporting the bill. This bill is essential to the Texas economy but will require local jurisdictions to figure out funding.

SB 526 (Kolkhorst/Jetton) includes language from HB 1154 (Jetton) and generally preserves directors’ choice on meeting location. AWBD supports this amended SB 526, which provides transparency without restrictive, unfunded state mandates.

Senate Bill 3 (Schwertner/Paddie—Utility Reliability) was amended by Senator Schwertner and other senators based on recommendations developed by a coalition of water associations, including AWBD. As amended, the bill generally makes utility service more reliable during extreme weather events and now extends across Texas emergency back-up power requirements currently applicable to the greater Houston region.

Other Bills:

HB 3253 (Jetton), addressing virtual board meetings, did not make it out of the Senate, which is unfortunate. The bill would have allowed MUDs to conduct meetings via video and teleconferencing, making permanent the current Texas Opening Meeting Act emergency rules. The Governor’s emergency rules are still in place; AWBD will keep its members posted on this issue and look to address this issue next session.

HB 2525 (Huberty), which AWBD opposed and did not receive a Senate committee hearing, will not pass the Senate. HB 2525 would have created a Lake Houston Dredging District, but the bill left open the possibility that funding would have come for water users. AWBD sent several letters and made other significant efforts to protect its members’ interests on this bill.

HB 4146 (T. King), which contained language that could create serious issues for MUDs and their residents in the future, did not receive a committee assignment. HB 4146 (T. King) would have barred MUDs from obtaining wastewater discharge permits on certain stream segments across Central Texas, regardless of the water quality criteria that the MUDs meet.

Kudos! The 87th Texas Legislative Session is certainly one to remember, and for AWBD issues, one that was overwhelmingly positive. Thanks again to those who spent time in Austin working to ensure that MUDs have the right tools and regulatory environment to help grow Texas.

Trey Lary and Howard Cohen will provide AWBD’s recap of the 87th Texas Legislative Session at Annual Conference. Please join us and hear what happened and how it will affect your district and our industry.