Surprise Veto of TV Recycling Bill Turns Heads

perryvetoSan Antonio Current

Since the 81st regular legislature closed up shop June 1, environmental organizations here waited to hear Governor Rick Perry say yes and officially sign HB 821, otherwise known as the TV TakeBack Bill, into law – or at least let it slide by unconfronted. The TV TakeBack Bill was based on the 2007 Computer TakeBack Bill (HB 2714), and it would have created a widespread recycling system less reliant on taxpayer dollars, according to Jeff Jacoby, Director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment’s Dallas office. Everyone was ready for the yes.

The digital transition that took place on June 12 was one motivator for the creation of this bill because consumers are expected to dump their old TVs en masse. “Ninety-nine million TVs are currently sitting in storage in the United States. If you look at the number proportionally, eight million TVs are sitting and gathering dust in Texas,” Jacoby said. “With the switch, we estimate about 3 million TVs could be sent to the landfill.” Even so, not everyone decided to dump their TVs.

But Perry vetoed the bill, June 19. Before the TCE found out about the veto at 4 p.m. that Friday, “all indications from his staff were that he was OK with the bill,” Jacoby said.

“At the end of May, that’s when we got a very strong message that the Governor would be fine with this,” Robin Schneider, TCE Executive Director, said.

The office of Representative David Leibowitz seemed similarly confident of Perry’s support. Prior to the veto announcement, Rob Borja, Leibowitz’s Chief of Staff, noted that Perry signed the Computer TakeBack Bill, so there was a high probability he would sign this bill as well.

Rep. Leibowitz himself was stunned at the announcement. “It did nothing but help people, then out of the blue, he vetoes it. It absolutely boggles my mind,” he said. “Of all the missteps and all the screw-ups in this session, this is probably the most tragic.”

The bill’s author, Leibowitz, is taking the veto personally. “It’s as if somebody said ‘Who cares about your hundreds of man hours?’” he lamented.

Governor Perry’s statement concerning his veto was full of reasons why this bill was not beneficial for Texas – many of which are seen as contradictory by the TCE and Leibowitz’s office. “Although House Bill No. 821 attempts to make it easier for consumers to recycle old televisions, it does so at the expense of manufacturers, retailers and recyclers by imposing onerous new mandates, fees and regulations,” his statement said.

Schneider assessed the statement as “strange, because these groups worked with us [to create the bill]. The retailers were not necessarily for it, but they were not opposed.”

“The first draft of the bill that we worked off of, which was provided by the television industry, included these fees,” Borja said. “The industry said the $2,500-a-year fees were fine. It was a trade-group and TV-manufacturer proposal.”

“All the different perspectives kept meeting until we came up with a compromise everyone agreed on,” said Leibowitz. “It was very unique in the sense that all these different groups worked together . . . I know we even met with a Baptist organization.”

Schneider received no better answer when she confronted Perry the morning after the veto. “The weird thing was he said he vetoed the bill because it was an industry-backed bill. He said it was backed by GE,” she said. “What he failed to mention was that the [Computer TakeBack bill he passed] was made by computer manufacturers like Dell.”

Perry recommends “that the next legislature look at this issue and maybe look at ways to make [the TV TakeBack Bill] like the computer recycling bill,” Perry’s Press Secretary, Allison Castle, said.

Yet after looking at Perry’s statement, participants in the creation of the bill were again confused. “[Gov. Perry] put it in the veto message that the bill needed to be more like the Computer TakeBack Bill,” Borja said, “but that was the bill this was based on.”

Even with the veto, the fight is not yet over. “Well we can’t override a veto if we are not in session, and the governor has not called a special session,” Leibowitz said. He believes the Governor might have waited until the session ended on purpose, but he said “[I am] working on a response to his veto right now.”

Texas governor rejects TV recycling bill

HB821VetoProtest 075Green Right Now – ABC News
Harriet Blake

Texas Gov. Rick Perry surprised environmentalists, and others, when he recently vetoed the TV Take Back Bill (HB 821), which would have allowed Texans to recycle their outdated televisions for free as part of the necessary switch to digital TV.

It was a defeat for Texas environmentalists who not only had the support of local governments but TV manufacturers as well.

“We were in complete shock given the wide statewide support for the bill. We even had secured the endorsement of the industry lobbying group [the American Electronics Association],” said Jeff Jacoby of the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE).

In his veto, Gov. Perry acknowledged that the bill would make it easier for consumers to recycle old televisions but said “it does so at the expense of manufacturers, retailers and recyclers by imposing onerous new mandates, fees and regulations” and would also “generate unfair results and stifle competition.”

In a statement released Monday, the TCE noted that it didn’t seem so onerous to Austin lawmakers: The bill had no opposition and passed overwhelmingly in the House and unanimously in the Senate.

“HB 821 would have provided Texans free, convenient recycling for obsolete televisions,” said TCE staffer Zac Trahan.


The TV Take Back bill would have operated much like an earlier measure, House Bill 2714, which passed in the last legislative session to regulate the recycling of computer equipment. That bill provided incentives to computer makers for taking back equipment from other companies, and did not allow for fees on the makers, sellers and recyclers of computers.

“Across the country, this (TV Take Back) is certainly not the most stringent mandate,” says Jacoby, who described the TV and computer programs as nearly identical. “It’s a market-based approach.”

Perry, however, said that before implementing such programs as the TV Take Back Bill, representatives and senators should have looked at voluntary recycling programs.

(Click here to read TCE’s response to Governor Perry’s veto.)

Zombie TVs Keep Walking

Austin Chronicle
Richard Whittaker

No one likes a bill they worked hard on to die, but there’s particular fury in the environmental community today that Gov. Rick Perry killed House Bill 821, the famous zombie TV recycling legislation. “Perry had no good reason to veto this bill,” Texas Campaign for the Environment Director Robin Schneider said.

A Magnavox? This should go in a museum, not a landfill
Photo by Richard Whittaker

The bill got TV manufacturers into the recycling game: A particularly important issue since the digital switch made many sets unusable. Schneider’s already had the chance to challenge Perry on his veto. This morning, before a rally at the Capitol, she and some protesters headed to UT’s Volunteer Leadership Summit, where Perry was scheduled to speak. As she explained, she came out of the elevator and there was the gov. When she asked for an explanation, “He said this was an industry bill. Well, coming from Texas’ business-friendly Perry, that’s an interesting argument.”

Schneider is particularly frustrated because Perry struck the bill down even though it had wide-spread support (including big industry names like GE, Thomson, Philips and the TechAmerica trade association) that almost exactly mirrored the consensus-backing of the 2007 session’s computer recycling bill. “This bill uses the free market to let the companies come up with their recycling plans, and the fees were modest,” she lamented.

More importantly, Perry’s staff told her he was fine with it – right up to the point he vetoed it.

What Happens When You Kill Your TV

Dallas Observer
Kimberly Thorpe

At noon today in Victory Park, a group of enviro-activists dressed for Halloween dropped to the concrete to rather dramatically mark the end of analog television. The switch from analog to digital television was supposed to happen back in February but was delayed when an estimated 6 million U.S. household were unprepared for the switch. But time’s run out: The flip was switched, oh, ’bout 90 minutes ago.

As a result, the Texas Campaign for the Environment  — the group behind today’s Victory Park demonstration — estimates that 3 million televisions will be tossed out in Texas (about 20 to 80 million sets nationally). Since old television sets contain anywhere from four to eight pounds of lead, this is a hell of a lot of toxic waste to hit the environment at once.

“These zombies are here to serve as a reminder that trashing obsolete televisions is a toxic option that may come back to haunt us,” said program director Jeffrey Jacoby, as his zombie staff stood frozen behind him. “You don’t want these in your landfills,” he said, motioning toward the zombies. (And there’s a slide show from this forthcoming.)

The most environmentally conscious thing to do is always to reuse items rather than toss them. Local Radio Shacks confirm they’re still busy selling converters today, while Best Buy is offering to recycle old televisions up to 32 inches for $10.

Jacoby is calling on Governor Rick Perry to sign a bill passed in the Legislature to mandate more statewide recycling programs for used TVs, and “keep these old dead televisions from entering our landfills and water sources.”


Photos: Kimberly Thorpe