Common Sense Protections for Texas

At the beginning of the 2019 session TCE took on 3 major priorities, and over the course of the session a few other issues arose to become priorities for our work. Here’s how we did.

Cleaning Up Pollution

TCE succeeded in getting bills to accomplish this goal introduced in both chambers, HB 893 by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) and SB 2385 by Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston). Both were referred to the respective environmental committees, but neither received a hearing. TCE met with almost all legislative offices about the bills on our Lobby Day, and had further in depth meetings with several key offices along with a major real estate developer who endorsed the bills.  

Want to help us fix these rules before the next session? Volunteer with our #CleanUpTX campaign!

Reforming Our Trash System

TCE succeeded in getting more bills filed on this topic than ever before (as far as we know)–at least 27 bills were filed by legislators from both parties in both chambers. Committees heard 7 of these bills, and two of them were passed into law and signed by the governor:

  • HB 1330 by Ed Thompson (R-Pearland), to raise the application fee for waste permits from $150 to $2,000, covering a greater amount of the costs for processing the application.
  • HB 1435 by Ed Thompson (R-Pearland), to require a site visit by TCEQ to the site of a proposed waste facility before granting or amending a permit. We will be engaging in rulemaking to determine exactly what staff will look for when they visit to confirm the permit application.

Another bill that TCE spent a great deal of effort on in the previous session, SB 2070 by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio) and carried in the House by Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) would have outlawed the practice of using grit and grease trap sludge from commercial liquid waste as fertilizer. The practice is already forbidden by rule, but this would have shored up protections. The bill passed the Senate and would have passed the House except for a last minute procedural maneuver by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Euless). 

Restoring and Defending Local Protections

TCE succeeded in getting bills filed in both chambers to restore local government rights to restrict single-use bags: HB 514 and HB 856 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) and SB 648 and SB 777 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo). The latter two would have extended these rights to other kinds of plastic materials and packaging  as well. None of these bills received hearings.

There were a few attempts to remove local tree protections, notably HB 969 by Rep. Drew Springer (R- Muenster), and SB 422 by Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels). TCE worked closely with allies from Sierra Club, the Cities of Austin and San Antonio, and Texas Municipal League among others to oppose these bills. HB 969 was never voted out of committee, indicating bipartisan concern against the bill, and SB 422 was stalled to death before being amended onto another, bad bill against local water quality protections. That bill, HB 3750, was killed on a point of order by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood). No new threats to trees passed in this session.

Another unanticipated local attack came from HB 2723 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) and would have stripped all local and county governments of their rights to limit waste facilities, including by zoning or siting ordinances. This bill got voted out of the House Environmental Regulation Committee after some significant but inadequate changes. The bill never received a vote in the House Calendars Committee.

Protecting Our Rights Contest and Protest

These were bills that emerged after the session began. One bill we opposed, HB 3114 by Rep. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station), would have taken the Contested Case Hearing process over TCEQ permits away from the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) and moved them to TCEQ itself–making them judge, jury, and executioner in the permitting process. That bill died in the Calendars Committee after widespread opposition.

HB 3557 by Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) adds significant new criminal penalties for protests against “critical infrastructure.” TCE helped allies secure significant improvements–taking the penalty for non-violent actions from a second degree felony (equivalent to attempted murder, up to 20 years in prison) to a state jail felony (equivalent to forging a check, up to two years in jail). We had gotten the bill down to misdemeanors for non-violent offenses, but legislators added the felony charges back in at the last minute. The bill would have been killed if any senator had stood for a relatively short filibuster, and two told us they would–but neither they nor any others would do so. Hold legislators accountable for their votes on this bill here.

Take Action for Environmental Legislation!

We can win on all of these issues, but we need you to take action right now.

To make it easier to write to your lawmakers, our positions are as follows:

Support HB 514/SB 648, HB 856, HB 893, HB 1329, HB 1330, HB 1331, HB 1390, HB 1391, HB 1435, HB 1436, SB 551, SB 638

Oppose HB 969

What We Can Win & How You Can Help

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