Senate Water, Agriculture & Rural Affairs met on May 3 to cover a full agenda. This report covers all four bills on the schedule, HB 1699 (Raney), HB 2083 (Darby), SB 328 (Lucio) and SB 1382 (Creighton). The archive of this hearing can be found here.

 

This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.

 

Vote Outs:

SB 1008 (Hinojosa) (6-0) to local and uncontested

  • New committee substitute
  • Includes agreement language between South Texas Water Utility Managers Association and Texas Irrigation Council
  • Eliminates $200 fee or deposit option; specifies fees cannot be more than actual cost incurred for any service by association with the construction

HB 1728 (Smithee) (6-0) to local and uncontested

HB 1905 (Harris) (6-0) to local and uncontested

 

Agenda:

SB 328 (Lucio) – Relating to establishment of the disaster identification system for a declared state of disaster

  • Lucio – Allows for activation of an identification system to signal using a luminated device
  • Different colors signify different things such as age of person(s) involved
  • Refile of SB 91 from last season that was left on intent calendar
  • There is no fiscal impact

 

Adrian Shelley, Public Citizen – For

  • Bill just provides another way to reach first responders in emergencies
  • In Hurricane Harvey many people were connecting with emergency services in ad hoc ways
  • Are existing apps that can display colors
  • Perry – Asked about the colors being displayed
    • Different colors signify different things
  • Springer – What about people who do not have a phone or only a white flashlight?
    • Would hope that is not the case
    • Would hope that a light regardless of color would get attention
    • Even if this helps increase those saved by a little, bill is a good idea

 

Mario Cantu, Self – For

  • Is an EMT; everyone has a smart phone on them at almost all times
  • Should utilize what is at our fingertips to save lives

SB 328 left pending

 

HB 1699 (Raney) – Relating to the taking of un-banded pen-reared pheasant and quail by certain landowners

  • Buckingham – Bill does not affect the requirement to obtain a game birds breeder license
  • Bill also does not allow property owner to exceed bag limit during season

Voted out of committee to local and uncontested (6-0)

 

SB 1382 (Creighton) – Relating to the authority of a hospital to drill a water well for the purpose of producing water for use in the event of an emergency or natural disaster

  • Springer – Bill allows hospitals to drill and create a well for usable water in emergency situations when water supply is limited or depleted
  • Taylor – Should subsidence districts should be included in bill?
  • Springer – Bill was needed because groundwater districts are saying no or drilling within city limits is prohibited; including them would be a Pandora‚Äôs box situation
  • Taylor – Wants to make sure that all hospitals are included; supports bill

 

Cari-Michel La Caille, Water Supply Division at TCEQ – On

  • Taylor – Would those under subsidence districts be included or not?
    • Not sure
  • Springer – Would bill would raise issues with city or other water programs? Are there current laws that prevent curbing or grandfathering reducing water wells within municipalities?
    • No; would regulate if it meets standards
    • Must go to TCEQ for construction and maintenance
  • Eckhart – What about well water being used to fill swimming pools? Emergency wells being needed in emergency situations?
    • Perry – Sub city has ordinances that says no wells within city
    • Keeping or using water for non-potable reasons is a different discussion
  • Johnson – Wants to keep this from being an open-ended use of water. As bill is structured, allows to build a well for emergency services but does not specify if hospitals can keep using it or not. Thinks that an amendment should be made to say for use in emergency, to limit the use to the purpose
    • Springer – That is the intent
  • Johnson – Wants to clarify what the definition of emergency is; and if it needed to be declared or not
    • Perry – Language should be wide enough to benefit but narrow enough not to waste

 

Cesar Lopez, Texas Hospital Association – For

  • There is a lot of regulatory infrastructure hospitals have to work though; time and cost
  • Bill lowers the hurdles for emergency supply
  • Springer – Has the cost to a large hospital such as Beaumont had been looked into?
    • One of their hospitals in Houston sent them some data
    • Had a well operational in 2014, took 3 years to build and $2.4 million

SB 1382 left pending

 

HB 2083 (Darby) – Relating to the general manager of the Upper Colorado River Authority

  • Perry – Authority created in 1935 to protect water shed of now 14 county regions
  • UCRA is comprised 9-member board with preceding officer
  • Bill gives UCRA authority to hire a general manager to run office and fully commit to authority‚Äôs workload
  • Need statutory authority to hire someone to take work load off of CEO

Voted out of committee to local and uncontested (6-0)