March 10th, 2015
In This Issue: Loss of a Conservation Giant, Legislative Update
Remembering a Conservation Giant
Sadly, on March 1st, Texas lost a true conservation hero and champion. Former Texas Land Commissioner and Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Interior Bob Armstrong passed away at the age of 82. Because of Bob Armstrong’s decades-long effort, Texas acquired the 212,000 acre property that is now Big Bend State Park. The visitor center was dedicated to Bob last summer and bears his name. In addition to Bob’s many important accomplishments in public office, the Texas Observer reflected that he was, “a fly fisherman, a pilot, a white-water canoeist, a camper, a hunter, a bird-watcher, an outdoor photographer and a golfer.” Bob served on the boards of many conservation organizations, including the Texas League of Conservation Voters, which he joined in 2005. Bob will be deeply missed but his contributions to conservation and the environment in Texas will be felt for generations to come.
Scores of environmental bills have been filed at the Legislature, and more are surely coming before this week’s filing deadline of March 13. Some are starting to head to committee. A very bad local control bill we reported on earlier, HB 540 by Rep. Phil King, is being heard in House State Affairs this week. If that bill heads to the House floor we will send out a general legislative alert. Below we highlight legislation TLCV is tracking. As always, this listing is a snapshot of some important legislation and by no means exhaustive.
HB 87 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) would increase electronic recycling availability for consumers at large retailers.
HB 684 by Rep. Sheets (R-Dallas) is one of a few bills which would allow rural counties to adopt fire codes. HB 942 by Rep. Kacal (R-College Station) and SB 528 by Sen. Birdwell (R-Waco) improve safety conditions at facilities housing ammonium nitrate.
Budget Transparency + Adequate Parks Funding
HJR 33 by Rep. Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) and SJR 18 by Sen. Estes (R-Wichita Falls) would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to require revenue from the Sporting Goods Sales Tax to go to parks and parks programs. Currently only about a third of SGST revenue is used for that purpose.
SB 929 by Sen. Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) and HB 1736 Rep. Villalba (R-Dallas) would restrict local municipalities’ authority to adopt energy efficiency codes and limit state adoption of new energy codes to every 6 years.
HB 1794 (same as HB 1760) by Rep. Geren (R-Fort Worth) would prevent local governments from protecting their citizens and the environment from negligent and reckless behavior by placing strict limits on environmental damages.
Citizen Participation in Environmental Permitting
SB 709 by Sen. Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) and HB 1865 Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) would switch the burden of proof in Contested Case Hearings away from deep-pocketed industry to citizens, and also add restrictions to who can participate in such hearings.
HB 1939 by Rep. Rinaldi (R-Irving) would prohibit municipalities from adopting bans on plastic bags.
SB 931 by Sen. Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) would end the state’s highly successful renewable energy portfolio standard.
Not content to file only one bill on the subject, Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) made sure she was covering all bases on local control on issues involving oil and gas drilling safety by filing SB 720, which prohibits political subdivisions from enacting prohibitions on hydraulic fracturing.
Thank you for all that you do. You’ll be hearing from us again soon as the pace picks up in the 84th Legislature.